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)

 

CSA Post: Vegan Cabbage rolls

Hello all, welcome to the 2015 CSA season in Laura’s cooking blog world. I’m quite late to the game here since I’ve been preoccupied with the drudgery of everyday work routine, hibernating from the heat and occasionally writing in my “society” blog. It’s been awhile since  I’ve been able to feel the tingling sensation of culinary inspiration in my bones but I’m finally ready for a comeback.

Last week we received a beautiful bounty in our CSA from Herbivor Farm, including kale, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini and their unique cousins from outer space, the patty pan squash, scallions, sugar snap peas and of course, the man of the hour: Cabbage!

I dreamed up the obvious usage of this wonderful cruciferous vegetable: Cabbage rolls, or traditionally known in Poland as Golabki, galumki, halupki , galoopi and hippopotamus in several other  Eastern European countries and variations. There’s so many different variations and names on the internet that I can’t keep track of them all. I may have made a couple of those names up, but it’s really quite hard to tell.

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Laura’s vegan cabbage rolls: A simple name for a weeknight classic

None of that traditional name and recipe business matters because we’re going as far away from tradition as you can imagine in this vegan version. Us vegetarians are usually forced to reinvent recipes from meat-heavy cuisines in order to survive. And our versions are usually a lot healthier so you’re in very good hands. So, if you’re looking for a recipe that’s similar to your grandma’s, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

So, begin by washing the cabbage, removing some of the nasty looking leaves on it (if any) and removing the core at the bottom. Then fill a huge pot of water, add the cabbage and bring the water to a boil on medium- high heat.

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Turn the cabbage every 2-3 minutes and slowly remove the cooked leaves that appear cooked and easy to fall off. Place each leaf on a plate for later. This whole process should take about 10-15 minutes for you to have enough leaves cooked to use.

When you’re finished cooking the cabbage, slice it in half and roughly chop and dice up some of the leftovers to add to the sauce. Any remaining cabbage can be put away in the fridge and used for coleslaw or braised cabbage to accompany another meal.

Chop up some onion and garlic, and saute in oil until tender.

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Now it’s time to make the mixture. By now, you should have your lentils cooked (about 1 1/2 cup) and long grain wild rice ready to go. I forgot to mention this before, whoops! I used a teeny tiny bit of inspiration from my mom’s Americanized ground beef, rice and tomato sauce-based recipe that she used when I was growing up. I of course swapped the beef for brown lentils and used long grain wild rice.

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As you can see, I also added some extra chopped cabbage to the mixture. For the spices, I went all across the board: Some paprika of course, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.  Then I added  the cooked onion and garlic. I later stirred in a bit of the sauce to this mixture once it was done cooking to even things out.

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For the sauce, add a can of tomato sauce and simmer on low-medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir in the chopped cabbage. Add salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder and dash of white vinegar. At this point I still wasn’t satisfied with the flavour and added a squeeze of dijon mustard and…drum roll.. just a pinch of adobo sauce. Gasp! Oh, the blasphemy! But I tasted it and it was perfect!  The goddess of culinary creation had to spoken to me. In a way, this method was actually more traditional because I didn’t meticulously measure and add the spices to the sauce, but instead added and tasted it as I went along. No written recipe involved. This is something that mothers and grandmothers from the old country do.

So now that the sauce is finished, you can get down to business and begin the assembly of the rolls. Or, you could have already started it by now, who am I to boss you around? It’s your kitchen. Firstly, trim the ribby vein of the cabbage leaves with a knife so they’re easier to roll.

You can also preheat your oven to 400 degrees. I figured I’d mention this before I forget and it’s too late. It wouldn’t be fun if you discovered an hour later that your oven hadn’t been on the whole time.

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Spoon 1/4-1/3 a cup of the filling in a leaf and roll up, folding the base of it up and over the filling until it’s covered. Make sure to fold the sides in so the goods don’t escape. Place each cabbage roll seam side down, side by side in a casserole dish.

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Spread the sauce over the rolls, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45-50 minutes. Voila! Enjoy my friends.

Ingredients

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 Head Cabbage

1 1/2 cup Brown Lentils

1 Cup long grain wild rice

1 Can tomato sauce

1-2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tbsp white vinegar

paprika, to taste

chili powder, to taste

oregano, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp dijon mustard, or to taste

Adobo sauce, a pinch to taste

That’s not bad for a girl of French Canadian descent who grew up seeing her grandma ‘s and great-grandma’s  handwritten recipes for Tourtiere (meat pie) on faded recipe cards in her mother’s recipe cabinet. We don’t specialize in cabbage rolls and pierogies in our family but we love to experiment and try new things and that means riffing on old favourites. That’s our tradition.

Happy cooking!