Peanut Stew w/Sweet Potatoes & SpinachAn earnest vegetarian stew, presented as such, will never offend me -- an honest collection of colors and flavors that pretends to be nothing else. You know what I mean? The “Peanut Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach,” from Naturally Ella, called out to me with that sort of hushed charm. The firmness of carrots and sweet potatoes, the leafiness of spinach. And then, there’s this sidetrack of honey and peanut butter. Neat.

I doubled the amounts in this recipe, to make 4-6 servings. Easy enough. And instead of cayenne pepper, I used smoked paprika. My spice collection, here, smelled warm and distinct, thanks to the magical ground cloves. This scent transferred directly to the stew’s warm flavor, as cinnamon would do, for instance.

I added 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt at the end and did indeed serve it over rice. I enjoyed this hearty stew, the spinach. The peanuts!

Cheese CrackersNow, let’s talk about brilliance. Food victory at its height: when a very simple recipe yields an awesome result. I made my own Cheez-Its with the “Cheese Crackers,” from Bake, Run, Live. Don’t say, “Why?” Say, instead, “Why not.

Notice the short list of ingredients. Nothing bad here, no artificial anything. It’s easy to assemble a dough in the food processor, and it’s easy to roll it out (on parchment paper) and cut it with a pizza cutter. There’s no “pastry stress” with this one. I neglected to “fork prick” the cracker squares (no biggie). I did sprinkle on the Maldon sea salt flakes. I baked these for 13 minutes. Let them cool for a bit, then taste one. You’ll gasp. You’ll giggle. You’ll eat the whole heap of them if you’re not careful. And you’ll make a lot of friends, if you share.

PRICES:
Onion (1) = .49¢
Carrots (2) = $1.18
Sweet Potatoes (2) = $2.93
Spinach (6 cups) = $3.30
Brown Rice (1 lb.) = $1.59
Peanuts (.42 lb. = .96¢
Cheddar Cheese (6 oz.) = $3.30

PREP TIMES: the stew needs an hour of prep and cooking; the crackers need less time
TASTES:
a hearty vegetable stew is warmed by ground cloves; Cheez-Its demystified will make you a superstar

Here’s where I’m going next time: the “Roasted Acorn Squash with Farro and Mung Bean Salad,” from Seaweed and Sassafras, and the “Banana Corn Fritters,” from the February/March 2006 issue of Eating Well. Another vegetarian meal. See it when you come back to my site next week.