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We’re still trying to eat healthy around here, and have been pretty successful. I’ve been finding some awesome recipes that may be full of good veggies and low on calories, but definitely don’t skimp on flavor. These tostadas are the perfect example.

Okay, I’ll admit: I was a bit skeptical about this recipe. My husband was overtly wary of it, not being negative while I was making it but definitely lacking his usual enthusiasm for my cooking. I could tell: he thought I was crazy. I, on the other hand, and totally unbeknownst to my husband, was quietly, silently skeptical. C’mon, sweet potatoes? On tostadas? This isn’t going to be good. This is not going to go over well.  Why am I making this?

Turns out, I was making it because IT IS AWESOME. My intuition for recipes is pretty good, and when I first saw this pop up in my google reader, I had a sense it would be great (it was only when I was putting all of my dinner eggs in a sweet potato tostada basket that I began to doubt myself). And I was right!! (The first me, not the doubting me.) So, gentle readers, fear not: this recipe is super yummy. And super good for you!! We gobbled these up and I can’t wait to make them again.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tostadas

From Two Peas and Their Pod

2 large sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into small cubes
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 corn tortillas
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, diced
1 lime, cut into wedges
Shredded cheese (optional)
Salsa or hot sauce (optional)

directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place sweet potato cubes on a large baking sheet. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft and tender. Stir a couple of times while they are roasting.

2. In a non-stick skillet, heat corn tortillas over medium-high heat. When tortillas start to bubble up, flip and heat the other side until golden brown, about 30 seconds for each side. Place tortillas on a baking sheet and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place under a hot broiler for about 2 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over tortillas. Place tortillas back under the broiler for another two minutes.*

3. Heat black beans over the stove or in the microwave. Top tortillas with beans, sweet potatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and any other toppings you desire. Serve warm.

*I heated my tortillas up by putting them directly on the burner over a medium flame, and flipping them with tongs. This is how I always heat up corn tortillas for tacos, and it’s very quick, but it did result in softer tortillas you’d get if you followed the recipe,so our tostadas were a bit floppy and we ended up eating them like great big tacos.

I think of all the seasons, I get most excited for fall… after weeks of being unable to turn on the oven – even dreading having a single burner on because it will turn the kitchen into a sweltering sauna – suddenly finding myself able to to roast or simmer or braise to my heart’s content comes as a relief. I love cooking with butternut squash and pumpkin again, warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, slow-cooking braises where the meat falls off the bone. There is nothing so satisfying and comforting as tucking into a big bowl of steamy, hearty soup on a chilly fall day.

This soup certainly fits the bill. It’s about as hearty and wholesome as they get – big chunks of colorful, tasty fall veggies, chock full of fiber- and protein-packed lentils, bursts of vitamin-rich spinach, all melding together in a flavorful, soothing broth. It’s perfect for fall. James and I have been enjoying the heck out it – the recipe makes a lot so we’re getting quite a few easy dinners out of the leftovers. After a long  hike yesterday up a mountain in central New Hampshire, it sure was nice to come home and heat up a couple of servings of this deliciousness.

The original recipe calls for just sweet potatoes, but I had half of a butternut squash already peeled in the fridge, leftover from another dish, so I chopped it up and threw that in as well. I think it’s a winning addition – I’m crazy for butternut squash – so I think I’ll add it to this soup from now on. Feel free to leave it out, or even substitute a different kind of winter squash… I’m think I’ll have to try pumpkin one of these days. Swiss chard, tough stems removed, could be substituted for the spinach. The original recipe also calls for vegetable broth, which would make this meal vegetarian, but I prefer the savory goodness of chicken broth.

Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Squash and Spinach

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Serves: 8 – 10

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 cups brown lentils

4 (15 ounce) cans chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

3 cups water

2 cans (15 ounce) diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and garlic is just barely starting to brown. Add carrot, celery, sweet potatoes, and squash. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables soften, about 6 – 9 minutes.
  2. Stir in the lentils, broth, and water. Add the diced tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Cook on medium-low heat for about 35-40 minutes or until lentils are cooked.
  3. Add the fresh spinach and stir. If necessary, season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves and serve.

I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. I have a collection of more recipes than I can ever actually make, probably, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting more. So whenever our weekend errands include getting my husband a haircut, I happily wait for him while perusing the salon (“salon” sounds awfully girly and expensive, and this place is neither, but it’s not a barber shop because they cater to men and women, so what else can I call it?)’s magazines. If I find something I like, I’ll copy it down in my iPhone, or if I’m in a hurry I’ll take pictures with my iPhone and hope that the text won’t be too blurry to decipher later. My magazine of choice is Real Simple, which I kind of want to subscribe to, but I’m not really motivated to since I can get it for free at the haircutting place. Ha!

The last time we went, I couldn’t find the latest issue of Real Simple, so I wound up looking at Women’s Health. Not the kind of magazine I’d immediately reach for in a waiting room, but I’m glad I did because I found a bunch of yummy-looking recipes, this one included. I furiously copied it into my iPhone and emailed it to my mom and sister, then a couple of days later I found an excuse to make it.

This is a really good stew, but I think it could use some improvements.  I definitely liked it better the second day, when I served it over couscous (rice would be good too) – without it, the stew didn’t seem substantial enough. My hubby and I agreed that it would be better with some shredded chicken in it, too. And I might bulk it up even more with a second can of chickpeas – if I were to keep this strictly vegetarian and skipped the shredded meat, I’d definitely add another can of chickpeas.

I was surprised, given all the cumin and curry powder, that this stew isn’t at all spicy. It definitely has lots of flavor, but hardly any heat. And that’s perfectly fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but I like my curries to be spicy.  Next time I make this (and there will definitely be a next time), I’ll add 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes in step 2, when you add the curry powder and cumin.

Curried sweet potato and chickpea stew

adapted from Women’s Health, April 2010

1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups sliced onion
2 c coarsely chopped red bell pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 qt low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
4 c peeled 1/2 inch pieces of sweet potato or butternut squash
1 (or 2) cans chickpeas, drained
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
3/8 tsp ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion and bell pepper; cook for 8 minutes or until tender.

2. Stir in curry powder, cumin,  crushed red pepper, if using, and 1/4 tsp salt, cook 2 minutes. Add broth and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Remove 1 cup of potatoes and mash with a fork. Stir mashed potatoes back into pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes to allow mixture to thicken. Stir in chickpeas, coconut milk, shredded chicken, if using, cilantro and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until warm throughout. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and serve, over brown rice or couscous if desired.

Makes four servings.