‘Baked’ sweet potatoes in the slow cooker
It’s hard for some people to imagine, but maternity leave isn’t just a 12-week staycation with a cute baby. It’s 12 weeks of barely any schedule, unpredictable amounts of sleep and never knowing when you’ll actually have time to do something.
Which means that I both have time and don’t have time right now to actually get in the kitchen and cook.
There are blocks of time where I could prep and cook a great meal. But the chances of a particular block of time like that being around an actual preferred eating time (breakfast, lunch or dinner) are slim to none. Try more like 5:30 a.m. or 2:15 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Not exactly ideal.
Plus, half the time I’ll either end up with an hour I didn’t know I was going to get (surprise!) or plan on time that’s not there (double surprise!).
Obviously, it’s sort of hard to time something in the kitchen if you have no idea if you’ll have to tend to a fussy baby in the middle of chopping things or right when you need to flip something in the oven. Thus, my cooking has been pretty much limited to weekends — not helpful when I want to make something fresh for lunch or dinner.
To make things easier, I’ve been trying tricks that I’ve heard about but never necessarily tried. Up first: the genius use of a slow cooker to “bake” sweet potatoes.
I heard about this cooking hack more than year ago, but I’d never actually decided to give it ago until I really, really needed it to work. Which is dumb, because all you have to do is wrap potatoes in foil and place them in your slow cooker. I have no idea why I waited so long.
Prep took about a minute. And four hours later, I had a blissfully perfect baked sweet potato, plus three more to have for leftovers during the work week, when eating lunch is usually a difficult, solo affair.
I know it sounds silly that it’s easier to have something cook for four hours than for 45 minutes, but if you’ve ever lived on the uneven terrain that is fresh parenthood, you’ll know exactly why this seems so much easier.
And if you haven’t or are long past that point? You’ll still love the “set it and forget it” easiness to this recipe.
“Baked” Potatoes A La Slow Cooker
3-4 medium sweet potatoes, skins washed
Wrap each sweet potato in foil. (No need to poke holes in the potatoes). Place the wrapped potatoes in a single layer in a slow cooker. (Mine can fit four, though some may only fit two or three.) Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Remove, split open and enjoy.
One last curry, I promise
As you may have judged from my last post, I’m sort of obsessed with curry at the moment. Or for the entire seasons of fall, winter and spring. And it doesn’t seem to matter what type — Indian, Thai, a hybrid — I want it.
Luckily, for my rut-loving tendencies, there are all the above types of curry to spice things up, lest my husband and kiddo want to chuck me and all of our curry powder out of the house in a coup.
That hasn’t happened yet, though. So, if you’ll allow me, one last curry recipe before I hope it gets so warm, my stovetop goes on hiatus.
This curry recipe is also a great use for those final overwintered sweet potatoes before we get to the long wait for fresh local ones in the fall. If you don’t have sweet potatoes or want to make this dish a bit more “summery,” replace the sweet potato with a couple of peeled and chopped carrots.
This recipe also happens to have a similar flavor to restaurant-bought coconut-based curries, but is super simple to make. In fact, the most difficult part is waiting for the water to boil for the quinoa. My family’s single caveat with this recipe is that it isn’t very spicy, but it’s sweet, thus, my hubby likes to add Sriracha to his bowl.
Easy Coconut Curry
For the sauce:
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons curry powder
1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon tamari, or soy sauce
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
To complete the dish:
1 sweet potato, chopped
1 pound assorted vegetables, chopped (we used frozen broccoli)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
To get started, combine the quinoa and water in a small saucepan over high heat, and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, allowing the quinoa to cook for 15 minutes while you work on the curry sauce.
In the meantime, melt the coconut oil in a 3-quart saute pan over medium heat, and saute the onions and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the coconut milk, curry powder, tamari, maple syrup and salt and whisk well to combine. (Since curry powders can vary by brand, start with a smaller amount and add more to suit your tastes.)
Adjust any other flavors as needed, then bring the sauce to a simmer and add in the chopped sweet potatoes. Cover the pan, and allow the sweet potatoes to steam in the sauce for 5 minutes. Finally, add the rest of the vegetables, toss in the sauce to coat, then cover and allow to steam until fork-tender.
Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork, then serve with a generous portion of the vegetables and curry sauce. Serves two to four.
— Recipe from www.detoxinista.com
Lazy and healthy: Slow cooker curry over sweet potatoes
I don’t know about you guys, but after the decadence that was the past Thanksgiving week, simple and healthy were on the top of my wish list for this week’s eats.
Not that I gorged on food day and night from Thursday through the weekend or anything. Though, it was tempting. That said, I did have quite a few of those pumpkin bars I wrote about last week, and my mom and I shared a good amount of dark chocolate between us.
But: It was a holiday. Time with family. Regret nothing.
So, Sunday night, we wanted to do a bit of damage control. A healthy meal that was easy, too. So we pulled out the crock pot and made a slow cooker curry, and rather than go for rice, we roasted some sweet potatoes and served the curry over the sweet potatoes. Unusual? Yes. Healthy? Yes. Delicious? You bet.
Slow Cooker Curry over Sweet Potatoes
1 pound cooked shrimp, defrosted if frozen (optional)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon roasted red chili paste
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can coconut milk
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 sweet potatoes
More coconut oil
In a skillet or wok, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and stir-fry until softened. Add garlic, chile paste, curry powder and thyme and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, with juice, bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the pan.
Transfer everything in the pan into your slow cooker. Add coconut milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Thirty minutes before it’s done cooking, add the shrimp, if using.
Prepare your sweet potatoes: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Peel your potatoes and slice them into quarter-inch rounds. Lay rounds on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and rub coconut oil onto the exposed side of each round. Roast for 25 minutes, flipping over your rounds halfway.
At the 2-hour mark for the curry, add bell pepper and green onions, and cook another 15 minutes. Serve over warm, roasted sweet potatoes. Serves: 4.
Kitchen sink chili, as unusual as it is tasty (and HOT)
It’s no secret that if you follow this blog, you know that this winter I’ve been digging the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts combination. Steamed or roasted, I love putting them on salads or veggie burgers or just eating them as is. Those two foods are basically “winter” to me right now.
So, I was excited to find a new way to eat them. A very unexpected way, for me, for sure: chili. Yes, the thought of Brussels sprouts in chili sounds strange (maybe not sweet potatoes, so much), but, I assure you that even if you hate Brussels, chances are you might like this recipe.
As Example A as to why this is, I give you my husband, who, though he HATES Brussels, actually chose to make this recipe. He knew we had pretty much everything on hand and that I’d probably like it and thought he’d take one for the team. But, as it turned out, he liked it. And I’ll tell you why: This chili is so saucy, you can’t even taste the Brussels. I’m serious. Everything is so spicy and smoky and delicious because of the adobo peppers, that we could’ve thrown cardboard in there and been none the wiser.
This description probably doesn’t make this chili sound appealing, but it is. Really. And I think that if you have someone in the house who isn’t the biggest yam/Brussels fan (including yourself), but you want to push them because you know they have awesome nutrient value, then try this recipe.
Also, a word of caution: The adobo sauce and peppers are what makes this recipe really work, but you might want to be careful if you aren’t too keen on spice. We only used two of the three peppers, and it was still nearly too hot for us. We’re not total wusses, but still.
Chipotle Chili with Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 red onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped (we only used 2 and it was plenty spicy for us)
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (2 average-size), peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, quartered lengthwise (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 ½ cups)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Freshly squeezed lime juice
In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, coriander seeds, and oregano, and saute for a minute more. Add the remaining ingredients (except the lime juice). Mix well. The sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts will be peeking out of the tomato sauce, but don’t worry, they will cook down.
Cover the pot and bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook for about half an hour, stirring often, until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy. Squeeze in the lime juice to taste and adjust any other seasonings. Let the chili sit uncovered for at least 10 minutes before eating.
(Recipes from “Appetite for Reduction" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)
A warming seasonal salad, both savory and sweet
As much as I love salad year round, coming home to a dark house and a cold salad isn't that fun this time of year. Yet, I don't want to miss out on the nutrition that a salad for dinner provides.
Thus, I've really been digging having "warm" salads these days.
I shared my "burger" salad a few weeks ago. It's awesome, but it's also not the only warm salad in my arsenal.
A single warm ingredient can winterize any salad, meaning, depending on the foods you like, your possibilities are endless. Plus, in my estimation, the warm ingredients usually soften the rest of the ingredients and provide texture and flavor, meaning you can probably skip the dressing all together.
The one I'm going to share today has a bunch of texture, flavor and tons of nutrition. This salad is a great source of vitamin A from the sweet potato and spinach, omega-3 fatty acids from the hemp seeds, vitamin B-12 from the nutritional yeast (which also adds a nice, cheesey flavor), while the avocado provides good monounsaturated fats and loads of vitamin E. And the cranberries bring a necessary sweetness plus a bit of fiber, iron and vitamin C.
Yeah, basically, it's a nutritional powerhouse in one bowl. And it's super tasty.
Savory Sweet Potato and Cranberry Salad
Handful baby spinach
1 small sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces and steamed
1/2 avocado, chopped
Handful dried cranberries
1-2 tablespoons hemp seeds (or ground flax, if you prefer)
1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Pinch black pepper
Line a salad bowl with a bed of spinach, top with hot sweet potato, avocado, cranberries, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and pepper. Mash the sweet potato and avocado into the greens for a creamy, filling salad. Serves 1.
Bye-Bye Bounty, week 24: The end is nigh, but at least we have plenty to roast
This week’s CSA usage was definitely an attempt in trying to use what we received kind of the same way you use that favorite cardigan or earrings — we wanted our food to go with everything.
I thought that by going this route that maybe it would give us a chance to eat different meals with the same ingredients, rather than just eating the same thing for a day or two straight.
Of course, I’m always OK with eating the same thing more than once. That never bothers me. But, I know our bodies benefit from a varied diet and that changing it up never hurt anyone.
It turns out that this low-key way of changing things up just slightly was a great way to enjoy different flavor profiles with very little hassle.
For example, the picture at the top of this post features our Rolling Prairie butternut squash and sweet potatoes from the Lawrence Farmers’ Market roasted together and then mixed in a bowl with CSA salad mix and baby spinach, avocado, roasted garlic-y Brussels sprouts and leftover curried chickpeas from this amazing crockpot book.
Then, the next day, my lunch was the roasted veggies again, this time on a sprouted grain tortilla with hummus, avocado, baby spinach and chickpeas, with the last of the Brussels sprouts on the side.
See how this works? As for the rest of our haul — Swiss chard, peppers (hot and sweet), tomatoes, salad mix, radishes — we tried to vary that, too.
The peppers were the easiest to vary. The hubby made fajitas out of a mix of sweet and hot peppers, and while he used them in a black bean burrito, I put mine on top of some baby spinach, leftover tropical sweet potato rounds and avocado and then topped the whole thing with garlic and nutritional yeast.
The tomatoes went on one of my husband’s sandwiches, while other tomatoes went in a salad along with the radishes, sweet peppers and some of the salad mix. Of course, we also used the salad mix with the aforementioned roasted squash dinner, so really, the only things that didn’t get the double-duty treatment were the radishes (salads only) and the chard (juiced).
Yes, this week turned out to be easy AND varied. I love when that happens (and it doesn’t involve eating out every other night).
I ALSO really love the new roasted squash and sweet potato recipe I got out of this week, too.
First week in October, you were a success.
Simply Roasted Butternut and Yams
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 medium to large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted), plus a bit more for greasing
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease two 3-quart glass baking pans with a bit of unmelted coconut oil and set them aside.
In a large bowl, combine squash and sweet potatoes. Pour the melted coconut oil over the cut vegetables and stir with a spatula until they are coated. Divide the veggies between your two pans (or hold back half if you have just a single pan), spread in a single layer and sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper.
Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to keep your veggies from sticking. Cool slightly and serve. Serves 6.
What’d we get this week? Swiss chard, sweet and hot peppers, sweet potatoes, salad mix, radishes and tofu.
Bye-Bye Bounty, week 22: A new way to do sweet potatoes
This week we decided to update one of our favorite recipes for 2012. For the past couple of years, I've mentioned that I really love making sweet potato medallions.
We make them every fall and winter and eat them as pretty much a "main course" with some salad or beans, or cooked veggies on the side. And, we probably do this once a week.
Yes, that's a lot of sweet potatoes. And it's a lot of time to get a bit worn out on them. So, I updated our recipe for this year.
Honestly, I think this is my own little passive-aggressive way of dealing with my status as a "rut-loving eater." Because, after some experimentation, I now have a recipe that is very similar to one I love, but completely different. In fact, it takes the best parts of that recipe (the quick cooking time and the light seasoning) and makes it even better but including good fats and low-glycemic sweetener.
More on all that in a minute. First, last week we received white sweet potatoes, grapes, pears, mixed peppers, mixed greens and basil.
Now, you'll notice the sweet potatoes in the picture aren't white. That's because we made a batch that included both white sweet potatoes and regular sweet potatoes and totally spaced on taking a picture of the white ones. Whoops. They were totally delicious, FYI. They aren't as sweet as regular sweet potatoes, but still fantastic.
So, anyway, despite the picture being all wrong, here's the "new" recipe in all it's scrumptious glory.
Sweet and Spicy Tropical Sweet Potato Slices
2 medium sweet potatoes, skins removed and sliced into quarter-inch circles
Coconut oil (to taste)
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, place parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet and put sweet potato slices on top.
With clean fingers, rub the tops of each sweet potato slice with a bit of coconut oil, just enough to make the top shiny.
Wash and dry your hands and mix together the coconut palm sugar, sea salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the oiled sweet potatoes.
Place the sweet potatoes in the oven for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, flip them with tongs or a metal spatula. Return them to the oven for 10 to 15 more minutes. Serve warm.
What'd we get this week? More sweet potatoes, salad turnips, greens, salad mix, butternut squash and tomatoes.
Feel Zen in the kitchen with the time-saving Buddha bowl
If you’re like me, and you probably are, based on the number of personal responses I got to my lifesaver weekend roasted veggies a few weeks back, you probably have zero to negative time to cook on weeknights.
In my house, we’re pretty much married to our weeknight schedule, which is determined by some sort of fancy algorithm based on mommy sports, daddy sports, kiddo sports and family time.
It’s as nice to be married to a schedule about as much as it is annoying to be married to a schedule. On the one-hand, it’s very easy to plan when you know exactly what you’re going to be doing each (and every) week. But it’s also nearly impossible to do anything spontaneous or labor-intensive with one’s time, such as creating picture-perfect meals.
Honestly, I barely have time to shove a fork in my mouth, let alone create something beautiful and new and different all the time. Sure, some days I’ll get on a roll and make a few particularly inspired meals. Or, we’ll have a rain-out and suddenly we’re at home with all the time in the world to make something elaborate. But, mostly, I have 30 minutes tops to make dinner, and probably 10 minutes to slurp it down.
Thus, you may have noticed that generally, the recipes I share in this space are good for more than one meal. Sometimes, they’re good for several nights of dinner, other times you can at least get a dinner and a next day’s lunch off of them. And though these ruts are nice and comforting and time-saving, they aren't exactly inspiring, to be sure.
Thus, sometimes, I do crave a meal that makes a ton, yet is totally customizable — one where you feel like you’re eating something different each night though the parts and pieces are basically all the same.
This is sort of the method behind my aforementioned weekend roasted veggies, but, really, those veggies are just the tip of the iceberg. That’s because they can be (if you want them to be) part of the gloriousness known as “the Buddha bowl.”
The Buddha bowl is a concept long loved in the vegetarian community and its versatility should speak to anyone who is short on time, including those of you who like your meat.
The basics of the Buddha bowl go a little something like this: Add a grain, add a legume, add a veggie, add seasonings/toppings, mix. For example, say you make a big pot of quinoa on Sunday. Depending on what you have in your pantry or fridge, your Buddha bowl experience could go something like this:
Sunday: Quinoa, black beans, corn, salsa and avocado
Monday: Quinoa, chickpeas, baby romaine and balsamic dressing
Tuesday: Quinoa, lentils, sautéed veggies, pasta sauce
Get the picture? It’s easy, it’s rut-preventing, customizable (my hubby’s often looks different than mine) and it totally cleans out your fridge/pantry/freezer of all the random purchases/leftovers/frozen things you’ve forgotten/gotten sick of/need to use up.
So, now that we’re up to speed on the awesomeness that is the Buddha bowl (which is so popular now that they make actual bowls called "the Buddha bowl" — the pretty blue bowl holding my salad from Delicious/Nutritious this month is one of them) here’s a recipe for the basic one at the top of the page.
It combines a bunch of really healthy and cheap foods — you know, the kind that you always plan on eating but, um, cough ... never do — which makes the following bowl perfect for those of us who tend to buy 3 pounds of lentils just because they’re on sale. (Guilty as charged...)
Note: I find it’s easiest to first prepare the sweet potatoes, and get them in the oven. Once they’re cooking, I’ll cook the quinoa and lentils in separate pots at the same time on the stove (they cook about the same amount of time). That way, everything is hot and ready at once and all you need to do is slice up your avocado to finish.
Quinoa-Lentil-Sweet Potato-Avocado Buddha Bowl
2.5 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup dry)
2 cups cooked red or green lentils (1 cup dry)
1 recipe Sweet Potato Medallions
1 avocado, sliced
Other toppings: salsa, balsamic, hot sauce, hummus, sautéed veggies (I topped one of mine with leftover fajita veggies from a restaurant — yum!)
Layer the ingredients as you prefer in a bowl. Enjoy! Serves 4-6. (Double or triple the recipe or pieces of the recipe to get more bang for your bowl.)