Travels with Tootsie, sweet potato and peanut stew

All communication from E. Africa so gratefully and excitedly received!

Any day that begins with a video conversation with Dora the Explorer and one of her older sisters calling to say they’re coming for Christmas is a fab one.

Saturday morning the Tanzania group was in the middle of 3.5  internet-free weeks on their schedule. So everyone went into a Stonetown internet cafe to upload pictures and talk to their parents. I’m sure all the parental units were as excited as we.

Sunday they again left all social media for 10 days. I will admit grudgingly that I’m proud of her for being so bold. And it is exciting and gratifying to see images from across the world — not just glassy-eyed snaps from the latest frat party. Evidently, though, wherever in the world college women are photographed, they stand with their hands on their hips and their torsos slightly turned.

It’s now “only” 12 weeks until the end of this semester abroad so I’m starting to think about African food. That and why I’ve larded on 13 pounds in the six weeks since my August high school reunion. Anxiety, depression and a stinking cold are, I believe, the deadly triumverate, deadly to taking care of oneself anyway. Today was my first walk with the puppy in a week and a half, and I already feel better and less likely to skid into the slough of despond.

The African-inspired slow-cooker sweet potato-peanut stew we enjoyed is healthy, easy and cheap to fix. And until we piled it on noodles moistened with a wee drap o’ cream cheese, fairly non-fat. The 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley is as necessary to the distinct, sharp taste of this stew as it is to tabbouleh.

This seems like something Dora the Explorer, who shops now in open-air markets full of seashells, cardamom pods and “logs” of cinnemon, will enjoy in December. I was a little leery of  the amount of allspice but, honestly, the individual tastes combine into a unique and hearty whole. Even Stoic the Vast, who can usually identify any spices he’s not crazy about, could not name or disparage the allspice. 

Peanut-sweet potato stew (from Time, Inc.’s All You website)

6 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch slices (about 2 pounds)

3 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a smaller amount of chopped green onions because that was what I had)

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Salt and pepper

2 cups water

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter

Stir together potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cumin, allspice, salt, pepper and water in a slow cooker until thoroughly combined. Cover and cook for 4 to 5 hours on high. Just before serving, stir in parsley and peanut butter. Makes 4 318-calorie servings.


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