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)

 

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CSA post: Pumpkin Soup

In this Thanksgiving edition of  Ottawa Green  Cuisine, I’m sharing an easy Fall-themed soup for my final CSA-related post of the year.  Last week we received a sugar pumpkin (or pie pumpkin) in our last CSA share of the season, and I figured a soup would be perfect to warm our souls in this October chill. Love is the figurative feeling of pouring warm pumpkin soup over your heart. Ahhh!

To start off, poke a few holes in the poor little pumpkin with a fork, place in a glass casserole dish or pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for an hour or until the pumpkin is tender.

In the meantime, get your ingredients ready because there’s such an overwhelmingly long list of them. I used vegetable broth (bouillon cubes), heavy cream (called whipping cream here in Canada),  cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of allspice and molasses in place of maple syrup. I’ve been using molasses a lot lately in place of maple syrup. Besides saving 10-15 dollars on a can of real maple syrup, I’ve become a new fan of cooking with molasses in a lot of my autumn-themed dishes because it gives them that little extra punch it needs. I recently used it to roast sweet potatoes for a quinoa “stuffing” for Thanksgiving. When I pulled the potatoes out of the oven, it was like they were kissed with this gorgeous sweet and spicy flavour. Yay for molasses!

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The little team that could.

Heat about 2 cups of vegetable broth in a pot on low while the pumpkin finishes baking. Once the pumpkin is ready, here’s the fun and messy part: Slice the top off the pumpkin,  slice it in half and begin separating the pulp from the seeds. Put the seeds in a colander or strainer and rinse off any remaining pulp. Set the seeds aside for the moment. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh and add to the pot of broth. Using a potato masher, mash out the pumpkin and stir as the mixture heats up. While the pumpkin is heating, add the seeds in a small skillet  and toast on low for about 5 minutes until they’ll all brown, crisp and toasty.

Returning to the pumpkin mixture, add 1/3 cup of molasses and stir. Add dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice then turn off the heat. Transfer the pumpkin mixture into a blender or food processor and place the blender in the fridge to allow it to cool.  In my experience, the heat will actually make the plastic crack if you blend it right away. I ended up destroying one of my blenders before I got my Ninja by doing this. To be on the safe side, let it cool for about 20 minutes.

Once it’s cooled, add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, a.k.a. “whipping cream” to the blender. Blend until smooth.  Sprinkle a handful of pumpkin seeds to each bowl and serve. Voila!  Enjoy.

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 sugar Pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream/ Whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup Molasses, any kind
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • A dash of Cinnamon
  • A dash of Nutmeg
  • A dash of Allspice