Summer is a great time to relax, but it's also a great time to be outside! Growing up both my husband and I were involved in sports and activities that made sure we took advantage of the sunshine, heat, and freedom that summer provides. Now, our kids are enjoying the same summer fun, and we have to make sure that they (and we!) are properly fueled to take on the evening activities despite already expending a big day outside. Enter the easiest dinner possible: baked sweet potatoes stuffed with whatever you have on hand!
This particular recipe was a grab & go for the remaining ingredients I had in my fridge prior to a long weekend away from home for the 4th of July. I didn't even think this was going to be a recipe worthy of my blog post as I chucked things into the blender and layered veggies on my potato. Surprisingly, the whole dinner worked so well that I immediately scribbled it down in my notebook for safe keeping and entry this week.
Sustainability Spotlight: Here's an interesting (and not widely known fact); sweet potatoes in a study conducted by the USDA agency Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found that sweet potato, compared to corn, yielded two to three times as many carbohydrates for fuel ethanol production (per acre) than corn. The principal source of biodiesel (ethanol) production from corn comes from starch which takes several processes to convert to sugar and then to alcohol (ethanol). Sucrose (sugar) from carbohydrates can more easily be converted to ethanol which makes the sweet potatoes high carbohydrates concentration (of which 20-30% are sucrose) provide a higher yield for less effort for the biodiesel production. Sweet potatoes as a crop also do not require as much fertilizer to grow and can be grown along the East Coast (majority of corn production is in the Midwestern states) and take advantage of underutilized farm land and not "transition" our current corn yields but rather add to / supplement.
It sounds like sweet potatoes are the obvious "path ahead" right? Well, there are hurdles such as the high start-up costs for sweet potatoes. Planting and harvesting sweet potatoes are done by hand (vs. corn which is mechanized). Also, the corn production in the U.S. is incredibly established with more "value" placed on production based upon historical growing patterns and exports (see my blog post Tomato-Avocado Stacks highlighting corn for additional stats and links for data). Frankly, the corn producers and lobby have the longevity, political power and historical yields (i.e. - "proof" that it works) behind them to stymie the advancement of sweet potatoes for ethanol production. That said, knowledge is power and the more we inform / read / understand as consumers, the more we can influence the nation's approach to renewable resources and request funds, research and support systems for transitions and entry into the sweet potato markets for ethanol production.
1 extra large sweet potato (halved length-wise)
~1 tbsp avocado oil
salt (to taste)
2 cans chickpeas (rinsed, drained & patted dry in a clean kitchen towel)
1 tbsp each of the following seasonings:
2 tsp each of the following seasonings:
1/2 large zucchini (chopped)
1 large bell pepper (sliced)
3/4 cup matchstick carrots
2 tbsp tahini
1 lemon (juiced)
1/4 cup vegetable stock (or broth)
1 tsp salt
1 handful fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 tsp fresh ginger (chopped)
1/2 green onion (white parts only - save green for garnish)
Garnishes: chopped green parts of onion and more cilantro (chopped)
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F
On a parchment lined small sheet pan, rub both sides of the sweet potato with oil. Place flesh side down on the pan and sprinkle outside with salt. Slide into oven to roast until soft (~40-45 minutes)
Next, on a silpat lined large jelly roll pan, dump chickpeas, rub with oil and add all seasonings listed above (everything from 1 tbsp and 2 tsp list). Roll chickpeas with hands until coated and spread evenly across the pan. Slide into oven and roast ~30 minutes until crisp).
While chickpeas and potato are roasting, add all ingredients in Cilantro-Tahini Dressing above and blitz until smooth.
Once potatoes and chickpeas are done, layer as follows on two plates: 1 half sweet potato (I like to mash flesh a little bit for layering here), vegetables (zucchini through carrots), dressing, chickpeas and more green onion or cilantro (garnishes)
This is a full meal and a great addition to your repertoire. I love that it takes very minimal prep and most of the time on this recipe is letting the roast occur. If you note, you don't have to mind the potatoes or chickpeas (you can, but you don't need to stir the chickpeas). Great option for us when we were transitions from day-time fun to the kid's baseball evening. I hope you enjoy as well!
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie