Black Bean Smothered Sweet Potatoes

A bright spot in January

A bright spot in January

I may have eaten more vegetables in the past twelve days than December combined.

As a lover of meat, and Southern cook comfortable sticking to the dairy, powdered sugar, and Diet Coke aisles,  I was a bit concerned about this 21-day transition into vegetable territory. There are few things that comfort like a bit of hot, melted butter and dark chocolate, whisked together and poured over ice cream.

This journey as a pseudo, 21-day-vegetarian has taught me two things. One, I want to be Heidi Swanson. Two, few things out- perform a black bean in flavor and fillability.* If I was crafty, I would take their cans, paint them gold and shape them into a trophy, then award Goya the MVP kitchen medal for January.

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Fresh basil and cilantro with powdered peppers are delicious.

But my friend Courtney from Kinora Films (the best wedding videographers in the universe) inspired my affection for the black beans and sweet potatoes combo. She has a killer black bean and sweet potato chili recipe that one day I hope to share with you.

The recipe below is a modified version of one I found online; I thought the added brightness of basil and the kick of ground chipotle peppers would elevate the flavors, and it takes a roasted sweet potato to, as they say, a whole-notha-level. Or, as my relatives say, “man, them sure is ‘werd but tasty.” Good black beans smothering anything will do that to you. Maybe even more than chocolate-covered ice cream? Let’s not get carried away…

Black Bean Smothered Sweet Potatoes

What You Will Need

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, 1/4 of beans removed; 3/4 rinsed
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 generous teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle peppers
  • 1/teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for drizzling**

What You Will Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places. Do this gently. When I pricked mine, I was a tad aggressive and accidentally got my fork stuck. Be warned; this is not an easy disassembly.
  3. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on your cleaned sweet potatoes, then sprinkle them lightly with kosher salt. Wrap each in aluminum foil, making sure to leave no skin exposed, and put both on a cookie sheet.
  4. Cook until tender all the way to the center, about one hour. Side tip: If you are feeling adventurous with your potatoes, cook these babies for 2 hours. They develop a roasted, sweet, pillowy softness that is addictive.
  5. Meanwhile, combine beans, tomato, scallions, basil, cilantro, oil, cumin, paprika, smoked peppers, and salt in a medium saucepan.
  6. When they are cool enough to handle, cut each sweet potato lengthwise, press them open to make a well in the center, and spoon the bean mixture into the well.  Hot sauce is also an excellent topper here.

*This word refers to a bean’s ability to make you feel like you ate meat.

**Depending on how salty you like things, you could use a bit less salt than this because of the addition of the unrinsed beans. I like things salty, so it worked for my palate.

White Christmas Snack Mix

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Snack food heaven

Happy New Year!

I am really looking forward to 2013. The idea of a brand new year is always exciting- but it’s also an excuse to be more creative with your life. To plan new things, set goals, make changes, drizzle dark chocolate like Jackson Pollock over a heap of white chocolate-covered marshmallows and cashews.

Yes, New Years is a fantastic time for the ultimate, chocolate-covered, dessert mix. It couldn’t be easier, or a better fit for New Years football games, parties, or just sitting at your kitchen table making grand plans for 2013. Whatever works.

This is dangerous to serve on large platters. It means more people can eat your leftovers.

Serving this on large platters means more people can eat your leftovers.

To be frank, whenever I see a recipe for dessert/snack mixes- really anything loosely tied together by a sugary substance with some Chex cereal thrown in- I am wary. I have too often been dissapointed by dessert mixes that look amazing (peanut butter, pretzels, and powdered sugar- sign me up!) but end with a cloyingly-sweet aftertaste.

This mix is different. The light white chocolate layer over salty cashews and pretzels is a nice balance- and I adore marshmallows, so any excuse to add those in anything is perfect. Also, this recipe requires white chocolate almond bark, which (don’t be decieved) is not a health-food product. It is the easiest way to melt white chocolate, and for this recipe, it’s what you need.

Here’s to the best year yet- and an excuse to fling dark chocolate in whatever way you please.

White Christmas Snack Mix

What You Will Need:

6 cups of Crispix cereal
2 cups of Honey Nut Cherrios cereal
Big can of cashews halves and pieces (or an 8 ounce bag)
1 large bag of peanut butter M&M’s
One bag of mini marshmallows
2 cups of knot pretzels
2 high quality dark chocolate bars  (don’t skimp on quality here; it really makes a difference in the contrasting tastes between the two types of chocolate)
Wax paper
What You Will Do:
1. In a very big bowl, mix the Crispix, Honey Nut cheerios, cashews, M&M’s, marshmallows, and pretzels.
2. In a separate bowl, melt one package of white almond bark in the microwave, or follow the directions on the package to melt it on the stove. Pour melted white almond bark onto the cereal mix and stir, making sure to coat each piece.
3. Spread the entire mixture out on wax paper.
4. While it is hardening, melt two dark chocolate bars in the microwave. My preferred method is to melt both bars on high in a microwave-safe bowl for one minute; then microwave the chocolate for 15 second intervals, stirring briskly after each heat blast, to melt the chocolate and create a smooth consistency. Try and microwave the chocolate as little as possible;  the more you microwave it, the more likely it is to burn.
5. After the dark chocolate is melted,  take a spoon and drizzle it over the cereal mixture like the artist that you are. Let it harden for about 15-20 minutes.
6. Once hardened, break the pieces apart and share them with your loved ones. Or not. 🙂