The recipes this week come from a variety of sources, and I have added a few extra notes in to some of them which I hope you will find helpful. During this time after Christmas people seem to prefer less complicated cooking, and I think many of the recipes this week fall in to that category, yet they are still tasty and satisfying. I look forward to hearing from you and to passing along some of your favorites, too, so be sure to let me hear from you. One of the recipes this week is actually a slow cooker recipe—the ratatouille. Look for slow cooker liners in the stores. They are a terrific time saver and hold up well to cooking. When you are ready to clean up, just gather it up, close it up and toss all the mess! No more scrubbing and scrubbing the slow cooker! This convenience falls into the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that category, for sure! I had a request for Sweet Potato Pie, and I am starting off the column with it today, and while there are many variations on this southern favorite, I like this recipe a great deal. Make this a good week and stay in touch!

Sweet Potato Pie

Richard’s Note: A sweet potato pie can also be made by following any pumpkin pie recipe and substituting sweet potatoes for the pumpkin, but I really like this recipe. It is rich and delicious. Try it both with and without the rum flavoring and see which you like the best. Both are good.

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes, canned or freshly cooked and drained well

1 can Eagle Brand milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. rum flavoring, optional

4 eggs beaten

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Combine all ingredients except for the pie shell. Mix well. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 40 minutes until brown. Let cool before cutting.

Ratatouille with Penne

(Note: For a delicious vegetarian dish, try this one! You will never miss the meat! This recipe can be made in the crock pot, but I usually make it on top of the stove.

1 can tomato soup

1 Tbs. olive oil

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1 small eggplant peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 5 cups total)

1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly

1 medium red pepper (I sometimes use green if that is what I have and maybe add a few pimentos just for color)

1 large onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

Hot cooked penne pasta

Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Mix all the ingredients except the pasta and the cheese together and put into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for about five and one-half hours. Serve over the hot cooked pasta and sprinkle with the cheese. (Note: When I make this on top of the stove, I just stew all the sauce ingredients slowly on top of the stove until they are tender. It truly is a delicious dish.)

Diabetic Sugarless Cookies

Richard’s Note: I rediscovered this recipe over Christmas and love it. It makes a great sugar-free cookie without any artificial sweeteners. When I made them, I did add a small can of crushed pineapple in natural juice instead of the applesauce to mine. Adjust the amount of flour until you have a batter that you can drop from the spoon and which still holds its shape.

1 cup flour

3/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. soda

1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. cloves

1 cup quick oats

1 cup raisins

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cups nuts, chopped

Mix all ingredients. Drop by teaspoon onto cookie sheet. (I used parchment paper.) Bake at 375° for 12 minutes. The diabetic exchange here is 1 bread, 1 fat, and each cookie contains 42 calories.

Chicken Pot Pie

Note: There are several “secrets” which make this pot pie a good recipe. Also it uses several convenience items to cut down the time in the kitchen, but the result is a delicious and satisfying dish. This recipe does not use a cream soup.

1 deli rotisserie chicken, discard the skin and pull meat from the bones—about 4 cups

1 pkg. frozen mixed vegetables

1 pkg. canned biscuits—choose a good flaky buttermilk variety. I tend to avoid the “buttery” flavors as they often taste like movie theatre popcorn.

2 stalks celery, sliced thin

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 stick butter

1/4 cup flour

1 can chicken broth

1/2 cup cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp. dried thyme or to taste

Start by sautéing the onion and celery in the butter. Add the one-fourth cup of flour and stir and cook until it turns brown. Add the broth and cream. Adjust texture once it thickens. Add the chicken, thyme, salt and pepper and vegetables. Simmer for about 10 minutes just until the vegetables are tender. Meanwhile bake the biscuits as directed, but salt each slightly. This step takes out the store edge and baking them separately instead of putting them on top of the pie mixture keeps the bottoms from being soggy. Once the biscuits are baked you are ready to serve. You can dish it all up into a serving bowl and top with the biscuits or you can serve right out of the skillet, topping each serving with a biscuit or two.

Easy Asparagus

Fresh asparagus with the tough ends snapped off

Olive oil

Salt to taste

Grated parmesan cheese, to taste

Lightly coat the asparagus with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Place on a baking dish and bake at 350° for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the parmesan over and run under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese and to brown slighly. Serve immediately.

Potato Casserole

6 to 8 potatoes

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 cups sharp cheese, grated

2 cups sour cream

1/3 cup green onions, chopped

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook potatoes in skin until tender. Cool, peel and grate on a medium grater. Cook butter and grated cheese, over low heat, until cheese melts, stirring constantly. Add sour cream, onion, salt and pepper. Add potatoes, mix and pour into casserole. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes.

Apple Delight

Note: If you still have apples left over from Christmas, this will use up a couple!

1 stick butter or margarine

2 apples, peeled and sliced

6 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 cup all purpose flour

3 Tbs. sugar

1 Tbs. vanilla

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 to 3 Tbs. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425°. Melt butter in 9x13 pan by placing in oven. Add apples to pan and return to oven until butter sizzles. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Stir in milk, flour, sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. Pour over apples and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes.

Crunchy Beef Casserole

2 cups uncooked corkscrew macaroni

1 lb. ground beef

1 can mushroom soup

1 (14 oz.) can whole tomatoes with puree

3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

3/4 cup chopped green pepper

1 small onion, chopped

3/4 tsp. seasoned salt

3 oz. French Fried onions (from the can)

Cook macaroni and directed on the package and drain. Brown the beef and drain. Combine all ingredients expect for the fried onions. Pour into a greased 2-quart casserole. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and top with the fried onions and bake for five minutes more.

Roast Beef—Hungarian Gypsy Style

Note: You can count on this one to be delicious and hearty!

2 lbs. rump steak, sliced

Salt & pepper to taste

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 Tbs. flour

1/2 cup red wine

1 & 1/2 cups beef broth

2 Tbs. tomato puree

1 medium bay leaf

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 medium leek, chopped

1 medium red pepper, chopped

3 slices bacon, diced

Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper, then saute in olive oil until brown on both sides. Transfer to casserole dish. In same oil that beef was browned add onions, carrots, leek and pepper, saute until onion is done. Add flour and cook for two minutes. Add wine and brothe and stir until broth thickens. Add remaining ingredients and meat back into the sauce. Simmer for one and one-half hours.

Lime Bake Fish

Note: Limes are at a good price right now, making this an ideal time to try this calorie-saver! I like this with tilapia, but other fish works well too! Use what you like.

1 lb. fish fillets

3 Tbs. margarine

2 Tbs. lime juice

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 Tsp. dried tarragon

1/2 Tsp. chives

1/2 Tsp. paprika

1 lime, wedged

Place butter in baking pan, place in oven until melted, swirl to coat pan. Put fish in pan, drizzle lime juice over the fish. In bowl combine remaining ingredients, and sprinkle over fish. Cover with foil, bake at 350° for 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with lime wedges if desired.