Oh hey, we’re hanging out over the weekend! I couldn’t wait until next week to share this small dinner victory with you. So here is to some weekend dinner inspiration, or possibly meal planning for the upcoming days.
It’s difficult at times to break free from our comfort zones, whether it be food or activity related. I like to be pushed out of bounds, in order to discover what I’d do, but I’m unable to always see the opportunity for a challenge. Some of my favorite ah-ha moments have come from challenges I didn’t want to be placed in, but had little choice in the matter. Moving states without jobs (twice), moving to a place I had never visited, enduring through building a business when all I wanted to do was quit, battling chronic illness, my car breaking down, having to create multiple meals from only a few dollars, finding a squirrel in my house, etc. Others I’ve willingly jumped into excitedly, such as purchasing a boxful of produce I had never tasted before, leaving on a cross-country camping trip without any plans as to where we’d sleep, quitting multiple jobs to pursue something new, selling everything I own, going brunette (that lasted two weeks), etc.
Those are all great “bigger” things, but what about the small ones. Like when I took Scott on a surprise trip to Austin for his thirtieth birthday this past May in the midst of my stomach illness being at it’s worst. We pulled in on our first night to Whole Foods so we could stock our rental with some Jessie-friendly foods for me to eat in between taking Scott around to eat all of the stellar grub the city had to offer (there was a lot). For a quick dinner that night I couldn’t find anything safe for me to eat in the prepared foods section, apparently Texas really likes it’s canola oil and sauce-slathered-everything. Then I wearily walked up to a counter where a tall, cheery guy was standing in front of what looked like some “plain food”. I asked where I could find something without any additives that I could eat immediately (I was starving). He smiled and said “right here!” He had baked sweet potatoes and steamed vegetables galore. All I needed to add was a fresh avocado and some sea salt to make it a truly delicious (humble) meal.
Needless to say I got to know this guy pretty well over the course of four days trekking all over the city. Almost every night I would end up back at his counter for a baked sweet potato stuffed with steamed kale. I had a cashew garlic sauce in the fridge at the rental to pour on top (that I had made using it’s semi-passable blender at the house, and yes I packed all of the ingredients at home and brought them with me), otherwise I would grab an avocado and sprinkle it all with sea salt and dig in. It may not sound like much, but knowing I could find something that wouldn’t send my stomach into a spiraling tornado of pain while I celebrated my sweet man and explored a new city meant everything to me on that trip.
This was a small way where putting myself outside my comfort zone lead to discovering something new that I loved. I know this is going to sound shocking to most, but before this I had not experienced a baked sweet potato! In my mind a baked potato took at least an hour to prepare, and when I’m hungry I have maybe twenty minutes before all hell breaks loose in the kitchen (I’ve gotten better). Therefore I always nixed the idea of roasting, and would dice up the potato and steam it with my vegetables on the stove instead. I’m happy to say after experiencing this humble baked potato on our trip I now understood why you waited an hour for these special tubers (I’ve since realized at a higher temp twenty five minutes is all you need, screaming with excitement over here). I think I have had either one small, or half of an extremely large, sweet potato every day since returning from our trip two months ago. I’ve found it not only super versatile and delicious, but incredibly soothing on my stomach and muscles – thanks to the resistant starches and heaping dose of potassium.
I’m happy to say this stuffed sweet potato is much more exciting than the initial one that got me hooked. Thanks to another trip to Whole Foods for dinner the other night I was able to discover their ‘cauliflower with cilantro’ dish. Which is literally just roasted cauliflower tossed with fresh cilantro after baking. But it’s amazing. And it positively makes this meal. That plus the spoonfuls of fresh (simple) guac, a good dousing of my new creamy chipotle sauce, and a handful of sliced scallions (pro-tip: wash and slice all of your scallions when you get home from the market, place them in a glass jar, cover with filtered water, and seal it up. Will keep in the fridge all week for adding to salads and baked potatoes). So here I am, bringing you what I thinking is a totally bang-er-ang packed sweet potato in July when most of you are turning off your ovens and converting them into an extension of your storage cabinets. But for those of you unwilling to leave behind the potato for the summer like me, or have really great AC units, I promise your evenings in the backyard this summer would benefit from one of these stuffed pillows from heaven. – xx
STUFFED SWEET POTATOES
Makes 2 servings, with extra sauce.
2 small to medium sweet potatoes
1 small head of cauliflower
salt & pepper
a handful of fresh cilantro leaves
1 ripe avocado
salt & pepper
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
creamy chipotle sauce
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1 tablespoon light sesame seed butter (tahini)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
scant 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 small clove of garlic
sea salt, to taste
3/4 to 1 cup filtered water
fresh chard leaves, torn
Preheat the oven to 450F. Position two oven racks in the center of the oven, spaced evenly.
Wash the two sweet potatoes, scrubbing off any dirt, and place them on the bottom of the two racks in the oven. It’s okay if the oven is still preheating when you do so. Move right on to preparing the cauliflower from here.
Wash and trim the head of cauliflower into florets. Slice the larger florets in half. Place in a steamer basket in a pot on the stove that has been filled with an inch of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover with a lid. Let cook for 3 minutes, meanwhile line a baking pan with parchment.
Remove the partially steamed cauliflower from the basket (carefully, with tongs) and place on the baking pan. Evenly space and sprinkle the florets with salt and pepper. Place the pan on the top rack in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping the florets halfway through the baking time. They should be nicely browned on both sides, and the sweet potatoes will cook perfectly in this time too (check with a fork to make sure and adjust the time if needed, this will depend on on their size).
While the vegetables are in the oven, combine the ingredients for the creamy chipotle sauce in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy (about 45 seconds). Add additional water to thin as needed, and start with less chipotle powder if sensitive to spice. Transfer to a vessel for serving, and store any leftover sauce in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Remove the skin and pit from the avocado. Mash the flesh with a fork in a small bowl with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Slice the scallions. De-stem and tear the chard leaves into bite size pieces.
When the cauliflower and sweet potatoes are finished baking, remove them from the oven. Sprinkle the fresh cilantro leaves over the cauliflower, and toss with a few spoons to let the hot florets slightly wilt the cilantro.
Place each sweet potato in a small shallow bowl, and slice into the center, leaving the ends and the base of the skin secured to hold the filling. Slightly mash some of the sweet potato inside with a fork to create a bowl-like shape within the potato. Stuff a handful of fresh torn chard leaves inside each potato, then divide the cilantro and cauliflower mixture between them both. Wedge in spoonfuls of guacamole between the florets, sprinkle with a handful of sliced scallions, and drizzle with a generous amount of creamy chipotle sauce. Serve right away.
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