Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Greetings, my readers.  What a long and strange time it’s been since I’ve shared my culinary experiments with you. The dreadfully long and hot summer has came and left, thank the gods. We didn’t have a CSA share this year due to the whole Pembroke thing and move back to Ottawa in early June so my creativity has been a bit lackluster lately. Alas, it is now Fall, Hooray!

On this day before my birthday, I have been blessed with an unprecedented emancipation from my fatigued stretch of incessant toil. That is, I’ve finally been blessed with two consecutive days off from work. I made this quick dinner one quiet Sunday evening over two weeks ago and have been eager to share one of my first recipes of the Autumn (or Fall) season with you.

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Tiny, condensed pantry, big ideas! 

I can only begin to describe how much I adore the Fall: The crisp, cool air on my face on a sunny Fall day ; the delectable taste of hot cider on my lips; the aromatic scent of pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon candles. The joy of seeing the leaves fall into shades of crimson and gold as the Halloween/Samhain season creeps in on us with the frights of horror movie marathons, costumes, decorations and haunted houses. There isn’t one thing I don’t like about this month that I was born in; it’s deeply embedded in my veins.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Grab the potatoes, poke them with a fork and put them in the microwave for about 5-10 minutes or until tender. These potatoes weren’t actually “twiced-baked” but feel free to pop them in the oven beforehand for about 5 minutes. Slice the taters down the middle, scoop out the flesh and set aside, leaving only the skin of the potatoes intact. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Nutrition Factoid on Sweet Potatoes: Sweet taters are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Their rich orange colour indicates that they’re high in beta-carotene which is a precursor to Vitamin A that strengthens our eyesight, boosts our immunity to diseases, wards off cancer and slows down the aging process. Among the myriad of their other health benefits, sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamin B6 which helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies which is linked with heart and blood vessel disease. Since this is a vegetarian food blog, I’ll mention the fact that homocysteine is acquired mostly from eating meat. Just sayin’! Orange  is the new green in the world of vegetables.

You should also start by cooking the quinoa. For those that don’t know the drill: Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside. You shouldn’t need to drain the quinoa, if you do, you’ve used too much water. This makes 4 portions; since I was cooking for 2 people I was able save some of the quinoa to use for another day.

 

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An empty canvas of possibilities

Chop and dice some onion, garlic (not pictured) , peppers and kale.

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Saute in oil for about 5 minutes or until tender. Add the potato flesh, quinoa, veggies and seasonings in a bowl to combine. I added about 2 tablespoons of Italian bread crumbs for taste, along with the seasonings. Nutritional yeast flakes would have added an extra kick here as well, but of course I didn’t have any. I also added the jar of homemade stewed tomatoes my good friend Ashley made. Thanks, Ashley! They were awesome and I wish I had time to can my own tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill each potato skin with two big spoonfuls of the quinoa filling. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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I forgot to add the protein source until after, but black beans or lentils would be a great addition to these. I decided to heat up some leftover lentils and made a green salad to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 cups Quinoa, cooked
  • 1 cup Black beans or Lentils
  • 1 can Diced tomatoes
  • 1/2  Cup Kale, chopped
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp, Italian Breadcrumbs or Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar  Cheese
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Chili powder, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce (optional)

 

Buffalo Chickpea Pizza

Today,  it’s all about the Za!  As the weather starts to get colder and we begin to move swiftly towards the holiday season, I’m been craving all kinds of vegetarianized comfort food to warm myself up:  Several versions of chili which never get old, or cheesy casseroles leaned out by quinoa and roasted vegetables; and pizza, of course, which is the king of comfort food.

I thought  I’d bring back the flavours of my short-lived meat eating days to reinvent the only meat I ever really liked: Buffalo chicken wings, and by that I actually mean the buffalo wing sauce. I don’t think I need to summarize that awful section on chicken slaughter and the stomach-churning details of all the wonderful health hazards involved in getting it prepared for the supermarket in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. You can still never convince me that it doesn’t taste like a wet rag, that’s just my opinion. I don’t judge anyone for their dietary choices; I am not a PETA-Nazi. The beauty of vegetarianism is that there are a plethora of alternatives out there to enjoy the nostalgic flavours of buffalo-style pizza, dips or “wings.”

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I’d like to re-introduce the chickpea, otherwise known as the garbanzo bean, the versatile legume which originated in the Middle East. It’s high in protein, fiber and  possesses an chameleonic ability to adapt to any delicious flavour you wish.  I typically use the faux-meat products Gardein or cauliflower to make my buffalo chicken dip or breaded and fried cauliflower “wings,” but chickpeas offer a healthier, non-processed alternative to allow you to indulge sensibly.

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Pizza party team: Mozzarella, hot sauce, Green bell pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, Danish blue and cilantro.

Let’s get started! Get your crust ready. Although I admit I didn’t make mine;  I bought a 2 pack of whole wheat crusts from the store in order to avoid to disappointment. Pastry still isn’t my strength. I will be tackling Tarte au sucre (French Canadian sugar pie) this Christmas so stay tuned for that.

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The empty canvas.

 

For the buffalo wing sauce, mix half a bottle of hot sauce, 1/4 cup pizza sauce, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Spread a layer of the sauce on the crust, smoothing it out evenly towards the edges. Add the chickpeas to the sauce to allow them to marinate. Quick tip: Soak the chick peas overnight, then cook a few hours before making the pizza. Soaking them overnight reduces their cooking time to 30 minutes. If you’re using canned, you can skip this whole tip. Although I highly recommend using dried chickpeas; they’re cheaper and better for you.

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Saute the bell pepper, onion, and garlic until softened. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare the ranch dressing, stir a cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir and let it sit for 10 minutes to allow it to curdle. I never buy buttermilk and when I happen to have it on hand for a recipe, a majority of it goes to waste. This is the perfect alternative. Once the milk is ready, add 3/4 cup sour cream, a tablespoon of mayonnaise, dill, garlic powder, salt, pepper and a splash of apple cider vinegar. If you like thicker ranch, add more sour cream. Whisk until smooth and set aside.  Once you start making ranch dressing from scratch, there’s no going back. What Hidden Valley?

Spread a layer of the dressing on the pizza evenly, and set aside the rest to use as an optional garnish with chopped celery.

Spread the chickpeas on the pizza, adding the crumbled blue cheese and shredded mozzarella.

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Add the peppers and onions on top.  Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Once it’s out of the oven, add the chopped cilantro. Brace yourselves for the adventure you’re about to take, this is one intense and fiery pizza. Keep a pitcher of water at the table, you’re definitely going to need it. Enjoy at your own risk.

Ingredients

     Pizza

  • 1 Whole wheat pizza crust
  • 1 cup dried Chickpeas, soaked, drained and cooked
  • 1/2 bottle Hot sauce
  • 1/2 can Pizza sauce
  • 1/2 cup Crumbled Danish blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Homemade Ranch dressing, recipe below
  • 1 Bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chopping cilantro
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped into sticks for garnish-Optional
  • Sliced cucumbers or carrots-Optional

Ranch dressing

  • 1 Cup unsweetened plain Almond milk
  • 1 tbsp Lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Sour cream
  • 1 tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 1/8 tsp Organic Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dill
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper

That’s it for today. I’ve been brainstorming for ideas as to what to write in my other blog-Life’s characters, where I make critical and analytical observations of society and reflect on things that get me thinking. If you have any ideas, let me know!

Cheers,

L.D.

 

Lazy woman’s Roasted Chickpeas with Broccoli and Cauliflower

This past Friday I was having one of those tiring weeks where, when  I finally made it Friday, I just wanted to plant myself on the couch and not move an inch unless a fire broke out. So when dinner time rolled around, I decided to chop up some veg, season some chickpeas and throw them in the oven. I was back to the couch in no time!

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For the chickpeas I used canned because, of course, this was the lazy woman’s edition of roasted chickpeas but I usually soak the dried ones overnight and cook them myself. I rarely have digestive issues but dried beans make a world of difference. After 13 years of vegetarianism, I’m used to the cheap and easy protein that beans  provide and have become immune to the gassiness that it causes in other people. If you’re really concerned about that, try out the old trick with the strip of seaweed that they do in Japan. I haven’t tried it myself but I’ve read that it does help make the magical fruits more digestible.

Now, enough of the bean talk. For the seasonings, I grabbed the half a jar of sundried tomato pesto that I had in the fridge and coated the chickpeas in it. Anything with pesto makes the flavour of the food pop, and combining that with roasted vegetables, I was sure to get maximum flavour. My love for pesto has no bounds, whenever possible, I try to put it in as many dishes as possible.

Set aside the chickpeas in a bowl. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet (one less thing to wash later, yay!) toss the broccoli and cauliflower in olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, pepper, oregano and italian seasoning. Make friends with these wonderful cruciferous vegetables,which also include cabbage, bok choy, kale and brussels sprouts. Why? They contain large amounts of antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins. Studies show that they can lower the risk of cancer so eat your damn veggies!

Pop the beauties into the oven, plop yourself on the couch and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until it’s golden brown and crispy.

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You can serve with quinoa or rice, but it’s perfectly filling on it’s own. I personally couldn’t be bothered with it.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar Sundried tomato or Basil Pesto
  • 1 can Chickpeas
  • 1 head Broccoli
  • 1 head Cauliflower
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • Paprika, a pinch
  • Italian seasoning, to taste

This dish happens to be vegan, Gluten-free, peanut-free, low-carb, low-calorie, sugar-free, air-free, grass-free, etc, so no one is left out. Even the gluten-free fad dieters who I don’t usually cater to. So, enjoy!

Cheers,

L.K.D.