African Nkyemire (Yams with Mushrooms)

nkyemire

Here we will unfold the mystery behind true yams, American “yams” and sweet potatoes, while partaking in the delightful African yam dish nkyemire.

Background of My Using This African Recipe

This recipe came to me in the early 1980’s, while catering and teaching cooking classes in Billings, MT.  I employed it in a African repast that included bobotie (a lamb dish baked in a curry-custard) and chin-chin (Nigerian wedding pastries), which will be my next two posts.  These outstanding dishes from Africa were among other native delicacies in this colorful dinner, which was one of my most popular classes.

What Are True Yams?

Today’s nkyemire receipt calls for African yams, which differ from what Americans call yams.  Yams, Dioscorea, are a tuber that originated in Africa and Asia, but now  also are commonly found in the Caribbean and Latin America, with 95% being grown in Africa.  Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, on the other hand, are a starchy root vegetable or tuber, which originated in Central or South America.   1

Columbus introduced the sweet potato to Europe; subsequently it was established in China and the Philippines by the end of the 15th century.  It has now become the second most important vegetable worldwide.  2

True yams differ from sweet potatoes primarily in size and color, for they can grow very large-up to 5 feet and 132 lbs.  These are cylindrical in shape with brown, rough, scaly-textured skin, and their flesh can be white, yellow, purple, or pink.  Their taste is less sweet and much more starchy and dry than sweet potatoes.  3

Sweet Potatoes and “Yams” in America

Sweet potatoes are related to the morning glory family, with an orange flesh, and a white, yellow, purple or orange skin.  This vegetable is sometimes shaped like a potato, though it may be longer and tapered at both ends.  Yams in America differ from true yams, like those found in Africa.  What we call yams here are actually orange-colored sweet potatoes-except those found in certain international food markets.  4

The orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato was introduced to the U.S. in 1930s marketing campaigns.  5  At that time, Americans were only used to the white variety of sweet potato; thus, to distinguish the orange-fleshed potato from this white variety, producers and shippers chose to use an English form of the African name nyami , meaning “to eat”; thus, our word “yam” was adopted.  These yams, however, are vastly different from the true yam, as originated in Africa and Asia.  Yams, as Americans call them, are sweet potatoes in actuality.  6

Importance of Tending to our Memories

One of my catered, African-themed events was a law firm’s employee-appreciation-gathering in Billings, during the summer of 1984; they had imbibed in South African wines and started throwing people in the swimming pool, at which point I gracefully exited the party-my check in hand.

Exposures to food become etched in our minds, as do certain life experiences, such as the one above.  We must be careful as to what we allow our minds to dwell on, as memories surface.  We can override poorer impressions left on our hearts, through purposeful practice, much like we can train ourselves to banish certain distastes, for ailments that were initially displeasing.  All must be properly tended to with diligence.

In this way, we can habituate our beings to let go of unpleasant, reoccurring thoughts, about either ailments or activities.  Indeed, we are responsible to hush these tendencies to recall negative, experiential occurrences created by either food or life.  Note: perhaps this can only done with the mighty help of God; thus, we ask for his gracious, omnipotent assistance.

Enjoy this simple receipt made with American “yams”-sweet potatoes.  If desired, go to an international market to get true yams and thus experience the accurate taste of this native dish.  For other sweet potato recipes, go to Sweet Potato Pie and Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 304.
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams#section3
  4. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/yam-vs-sweet-potato-which-ones-healthier-and-whats-the-difference/article4102306/
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and History  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 304
  6. https://ncsweetpotatoes.com/sweet-potatoes-101/difference-between-yam-and-sweet-potato/

yam slices cooked to a golden brown

African Nykemire (Yams with Mushrooms)  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr,  plus 1 1/4 hr ahead of time for baking yams.  Note: if refrigerating yams baked ahead, bring to room temperature several hours before preparing recipe.

3 med/lg yams, or sweet potatoes, about 2 1/2 lbs  (A 5-lb-bag of organic yams is available for $4.95 at Trader Joe’s, or 3 lbs/$3.95.)

2 tbsp lemon juice  (Organic lemons are only $1.69 for 4-6 lemons-1 lb-at Trader’s.)

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped, including green part  (Organic is only slightly more expensive.)

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced fine  (Organic is important, as peppers absorb pesticides readily.)

10 oz mushrooms  (A 10-oz-package of small, white mushrooms is available at Trader Joe’s for $1.79.)

6 tbsp ghee or butter  (Ghee will give the best health benefits and flavor; for easy recipe, see Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.

  1. wrapping yams so juices don’t spill out

    This step may be done ahead of time.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare yams as follows.

  2. Spray yams with a vegetable spray (for an inexpensive, effective spray, combine 97% white distilled vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit three minutes and rinse well.  Wrap in tin foil, carefully gathering the foil at the top, so all the ends point upward; this insures that the juices don’t spill on your oven (see photo above).
  3. Bake yams for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours; watch carefully so yams are rather soft, but not mushy!  Remove from oven and cool.
  4. Peel and cut cooled yams in 1″-thick slices.
  5. Squeeze lemon juice, set aside.
  6. Chop bell pepper and onions-including green part-into small pieces.  Set aside together in a bowl.
  7. cleaning mushrooms with mushroom brush

    Clean mushrooms, by brushing with a mushroom brush (see photo).

  8. Heat 4 tbsp butter, or better yet ghee, in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Quickly cook mushrooms, after distributing oils evenly throughout; stir frequently and cook just until they are becoming tender.  Remove to a bowl, with a slotted spoon.
  9. Add onions and green pepper to hot liquid, cook for 2-3 minutes, or until limp.  Remove pan from heat.
  10. In another skillet, heat 2 tbsp butter or ghee.  Place yam slices in hot fat, salt and pepper to taste, and cook on both sides, until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  11. Meanwhile, return mushrooms to pan of onions and peppers and add 2 tbsp lemon juice.  Place over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, and heat thoroughly.
  12. Put browned yams on a plate and cover with hot mushroom mixture, see photo at top of entry. Serve immediately and enjoy!

New American Biscuit, made with almond flour

almond flour biscuits

The benefits of almonds and almond flour are given here, along with a recipe for the new American biscuit-made with almond flour-to comply with multiple popular diets, currently present in America (gluten-free, keto, paleo, etc., and plain good eating).  This 20-minute biscuit is exceptionally light and moist, a great alternative treat.

Almond, the seed of a plum-like stone fruit, or drupe, is the world’s largest tree-nut crop.  This nut is a close relative of the plum, peach, and cherry, with its stony shell.  California is now the largest producer of the cultivated almond, Prunus amygdalus, which originally came from western Asia.  There are also several dozen wild or minor species.  1

As an aside, the nutty flavor of both almonds and its flour are not at all like the strong and distinctive flavor of almond extract, which is derived from bitter almonds; strong almond flavor is found only in wild or bitter almonds.  2

Our “pure” almond extract is made with aromatic benzaldehyde-from bitter almonds.  It, however, is without the cyanide that accompanies it in these almonds themselves.  On the other hand, “natural” extract usually contains benzaldehyde produced from cassia bark, while “imitation” almond extract contains benzaldehyde synthesized from pure chemicals.  None of these three extracts resemble, in flavor, the nutty sweet taste of the domesticated almond, or its flour.  3

Almonds are a power-packed food with their high content of antioxidant vitamin E and low levels of polyunsaturated fats, giving them a relatively long shelf life.  Their great, low-carb, sweet-tasting flour has an abundance of health benefits.  4

This nut and its flour are high in protein and fiber, rich in manganese, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus, as well as its above mentioned strength in vitamin E.  This last is a group of fat-soluble compounds that act as antioxidants in our bodies, thus preventing free radicals from doing damage, such as accelerating aging and increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer.  Lower rates of Alzheimer’s are also linked with vitamin E intake, in several studies.  5

One ounce (28 grams) of almond flour provides 35% of required daily intake of vitamin E, while the same amount provides 19% of the RDI of magnesium.  There is some evidence that the addition of magnesium in our diets results in improved blood sugar control, reduced insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure.  6

Magnesium is known to possibly help control blood sugar and improve insulin function.  Being low in carbs, yet high in healthy fats and fiber, baked goods made with almond flour also have a low glycemic index; thus, they release sugar into your blood slowly to provide a sustained source of energy.  For these two reasons, almond-flour-treats may be an answer to people struggling with type 2 diabetes and weight conditions.  7

There is some evidence that almond flour may help reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure (studies along this line are inconsistent).  In this way, almonds may lower risks of heart disease.  8

Finally, this nut may promote good sleep, because of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin present in them, as well as their high magnesium content, which also may improve sleep quality.  The magnesium purportedly reduces inflammation and the hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep.  Studies, however, are inconclusive; but some find almonds, on an empty stomach, before bed, are beneficial.  I like to eat one of these biscuits, several tablespoons of raw almond butter, and a glass of cold almond milk, before I retire.  9

It seems that most Americans are concerned about their weight and diet for one reason or another.  When I go into the market place, it seems most of the people I encounter are obese.  My heart breaks for them, as I once was caught in 226-pound body, as well.  Everything I did to lose weight-over several decades-failed.

I constantly resolved anew, to exercise for twenty minutes a day, three times a week; walking, however, brought so much pain to my heavy body that I couldn’t stick with my regime.  Today, my challenges have been reversed.  Now, I choose to lay down my beloved aerobic walking, in order to first prioritize my responsibilities, in any given day.  I walk as time allows, which takes great discipline for me, with my passion for this exercise.  Wow!  How things have changed.

Likewise, my 226-pound-body effortlessly and naturally melted away to a perfect 130-pound-frame, wearing a size four and six.  For me, this all came about when I finally let go and let God-as the saying goes.

It all started on October 2, 2002, when I suddenly had to stop a medication; its replacement came with the promise of a side effect of decreased appetite.  With great anticipation, I started what I thought was to be my miracle drug; three months later, however, during a doctor’s appointment, I discovered that I was six pounds heavier.

At that moment, I admitted total defeat, for there was no hope for me in the natural realm.  Crying out to God for help, I truly let go; I was inspired to tell the nurse that in the future I was going to close my eyes when she weighed me, and for her not to tell me what the numbers were.  We did this for several years, and my clothes-size slowly, but surely diminished.  Indeed it wasn’t me, but our Father who performed this miracle.

Today, the scales of life have changed.  Now with my active, vibrant life, I need to count my calories to insure I am eating enough to maintain my weight.  How pleasant is this problem.

We know that life can bring change, sometimes big, when we surrender our will; thus, we need to always be on our toes, expecting the best, which actually opens the door for the Omnipotent One to manifest good in our lives.

This biscuit promotes both health and pleasure; it is indeed good.  Enjoy its simple preparation, as given below.

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984. 2004), pp. 505.
  2. Ibid., 506.
  3. Ibid., 506.
  4. Ibid., 505.
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/almond-flour#section3
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep#section1

biscuits baked to a golden brown

Almond Flour Biscuits  Yields: 8 biscuits.  Total prep time: 20 min/  active prep time: 7 min/  baking time: 13 min.

1/4 c heavy whipping cream, soured with 8 drops of lemon juice from squeeze ball  (Organic cream is important for health; Trader Joe’s carries this for $3.29/pt.  Regular sour cream will also work, though not as healthy.)

1 lg egg, lightly beaten

1 c almond flour  (Costco has the best price on this-$12.99 for 3 lbs.  It is also available in bulk at our local New Season’s.)

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

1 tsp konjac root powder, or similar ingredient  (Konjac root powder is available on-line; it promotes softness in baked goods.)

  1. curdled heavy whipping cream

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Place cream in a medium (cereal) bowl and squirt about 8 short squirts of lemon juice from lemon ball over surface.  Let sit for 4-5 minutes; you will be able to see the curdled cream when you tip the bowl to the side (see above photo).
  3. In a med/lg bowl, beat egg lightly.
  4. wet dough

    Shake all the dry ingredients in a quart-size, sealed storage bag; may also stir with a fork in a bowl.  Add dry ingredients and soured cream to egg.  Stir until flour is incorporated; mixture will be quite wet.  See photo.

  5. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Spoon dough for 8 biscuits on paper.  Bake for 13-14 minutes, or until light golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).  Remove from oven and cool on pan.  These will store well in the refrigerator for a number of days.

 

 

Sauteed Squash with Curried Yogurt Sauce

sauteed squash with curried yogurt sauce

sautéed squash with curried yogurt sauce

This history-which follows-came to me, when a beloved friend asked me to concoct this recipe for sautéed squash; she fell in love with its original at an excellent restaurant, while traveling.  Goldie longed to enjoy repeats of this masterpiece, without having to leave the Portland area; thus, she trusted my expertise to supply her this powerfully good recipe-thanks to another chef’s inspiration!

This whole process made me aware that we need each other’s expertise; thus, we lend our strengths to one another in order to break through circumstances-both in the kitchen and life. This exceptional combination started in the mind of an adept chef, but I built on it using my own approach.  In turn, I encourage you to take it to your worlds, by innovating yet further.

None of us wants to miss playing out our foreordained part!  I loved acting in community theatre in days past.  Here I learned that there are no small actors, just small parts.   The eye can’t say to the nose I have no part in you, or where would the sense of smell be in the body.  In this manner, we can’t fulfill our destinies without each other’s help, while always remembering that every “body part” is critical.  We don’t want to forfeit, even by default, any of our precious chances to give or receive support.  This way we discover our life-purposes.

James Trager has been all that for me in my writings.  With a mind like mine for detail, he offers a feast of food history information in The Food Chronology.  His work equips me with an abundance of needed facts, to effect my God-given calling.

For instance he has four entries on squash.  The first dates back to 1527, when conquistadors returned to Spain with facts about New World foods.  They reported that the Aztecs consumed squash and beans among numerous other delicacies, such as: white worms, eggs of water bugs, and domesticated guinea pigs.  These tamed animals were eaten with the skin on-the hair being removed as with a suckling pig.  (Note: while studying food in 1985, I was offered guinea pig in Peru, one of the lands the conquistadors conquered in the 16th century.)  1

Next, Trager takes us to Virginia in 1588.  Then English mathematician Thomas Hariot wrote that these Virginia fields were planted Indian-style with squash, maize, beans, and melons.  However he noted they yielded five times more than the same acre in England.  2

I take this chance to build on Trager’s house: this New World area, nearly two centuries before the forming of America, was called Virginia, a word from the Latin virgo (stem virgin).  The land was named after Queen Elizabeth I, who was queen of England and Ireland (1558-1603).  She was known as “the virgin queen”; thus, this virgin land became Virginia.

Finally, our illustrious historian Trager details the early public appearances of spaghetti and calabaza squash in the United States.  The first, resembling spaghetti, was introduced in 1962 by a specialty produce company in Los Angeles.  3  Then, when Miami’s Grand Bay Hotel opened in 1982, Jamaican-born Chef Katsuo Sugiura had a loin of lamb among his specialties.  He smoked this over oolong tea and hickory chips; Sugiura served it with calabaza squash, grilled Portobello mushrooms, and yuca.  4

I love to share the bread of life through my recipes and words.  As you can see, my act of creating is so dependent on the works of others.  Now may you expand this, my fire, in your lives-both inside and outside your kitchens.

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1995), p. 88.
  2. Ibid., p. 104.
  3. Ibid., p. 569.
  4. Ibid., p. 660.
preparing squash

preparing squash

Sautéed Squash with Curried Yogurt Sauce Yields: 3-4 servings.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr.

3 tbsp butter

2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine  (I have also substituted 1/4 tsp dried ginger, but fresh is better.)

1/2 large apple, peeled and chopped in very small pieces  (I prefer granny smith apples here, but not necessary.)

1/4 tsp curry powder

2 tsp honey

1/2 cup plain yogurt  (Nancy’s Plain with Honey is good; Stoneyfield organic plain Greek yogurt is even better.)

1/4 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important; available in health section of local supermarket.)

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and sliced in 1/4″-wide strips

Roasted almond slices for garnish, optional  (May roast nuts ahead of time at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.)

  1. Put a serving platter in a warm oven.
  2. Melt 1/2 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add ginger, apple, curry powder, and honey; sauté until fruit is soft; stir frequently. Remove from heat, add yogurt immediately, season to taste with salt.  Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile peel squash with a sharp knife.  Remove any seeds.  Place flat side of halved squash on counter and cut in 1/4″-wide slices; cut these slices into equal sized strips.  (See above photo.)
  4. In large frying pan, heat 1 1/2 tbsp of butter over med/low heat, until a small piece of squash, which is placed in it, sizzles.  Sauté as many strips in hot butter as will fit in pan; cook for about 4 min per side, or until soft and golden brown. Remove cooked pieces to warm platter and keep in oven.  When this batch is finished, add another 1/2 tbsp of butter to pan and repeat this step, until all the squash is done.
  5. Pour yogurt sauce on hot squash, garnish with optional almond slices, and serve.  Be prepared for joy unspeakable!