I had a late night chat in the driveway with a friend a few nights ago that got me thinking about the things we do that make us feel "healthy." OK, first off, I love the driveway chat - you know, you're getting ready to head back home and then you kind of unload the stirrings of your heart in those last moments of conversation? "Yes, things are great, lovely to see you. But oh, hey, I feel like I may be going nuts!"- that's the good stuff. Anyway, we we're talking about how when life gets busy the first sacrifice is the "leisure" of doing the things that make you feel healthy inside. Hugh needs to read sometime during the day, the more the better, but always in the morning with his particularly perfect cup of coffee. Even when he has a list of things to do, he does this, and it has been a great example for me. Mine is a bit more literal in the way of feeling healthy, as I need to get out and move. Be it pilates, yoga, a long walk with a friend. Somewhere along the way, I picked up this impression that working hard meant not getting to do the things that make you happy/healthy, and in turn, me feeling guilty for going to pilates at 10:30 when I should be trying to come up with more recipes. There is actually a great article in this month's Whole Living about time, pretty interesting.

The thing is, especially during the current point in my life, where some days I am forcing out creativity, you've got to do the stuff that feeds your insides. Maybe those of you who actually do creative work, already know this, but if the hours of obligations and responsibilities aren't giving way to the things you NEED... find a way. The tai chi, brushing up on Spanish, volunteer work, hip hop class, vegetable garden etc... it fits in somewhere.

My sister chose a few meals to be delivered from me as her birthday present. The woman is picky about vegetables, textures and most things green. I mentioned her a while back. I made this for her so she had something easy to warm up while also being nutritious and filling. If you need to bring a meal to a friend who isn't feeling well, just had a baby, a new neighbor, or the like, it's easily portable and keeps for a few days. Serve it with a little side salad and ta-da! less time on dinner, more time at hip hop class, and such as :)

The recipe includes cooking the beans from scratch, which is slightly time consuming (all be it, hands-off time). You could use well rinsed, canned beans to speed things up. I'd go one can pinto, one can black beans.

4 Small Yams/Sweet Potatoes
Heaping 1/2 lb. Pinto-type Beans, I used Rancho Gordo beans, soaked in water overnight.
2 tsp. Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion
2 CLoves Garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Smoked Salt
28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes

Chopped Red Onion
Sour Cream or Whole Milk Greek Yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Pierce holes in the sweet potatoes/yams, lightly wrap them in foil, and bake on the middle rack for about 45-55 minutes.
2. Put the beans in a pot and completely cover with water, plus 2 extra inches. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 45-60 minutes until the beans are cooked through.
3. While the beans cook, thinly slice the onion. Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot and cook the onions and garlic until softened. Add the spices and the jar of San Marzano tomatoes. If the tomatoes are crushed, great, if they are whole, just smush them to a puree. Bring to a simmer and reduce for about 20 minutes while the beans finish cooking.
When the beans are cooked, drain and add them to the tomato mix, cook another 10 minutes for all the flavors to marry. Taste for salt and spices, add more if desired.
4. Split open the baked sweet potato/yams and create a little cavern down the middle. Fill the cavern with the chili beans and add toppings as desired. I like a bit of avocado, sour cream and cilantro. You could go with a bit of shredded cheese and minced red onion... something tells me you've had chili before and know the drill.

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Reader Comments (81)

I love those kinds of chats. And thanks for the reminder about bringing something nutritious over to a friend. A good friend of mine just had a baby, and I'm excited to share something warm and special with her. xoxo

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKasey

YUM! I love eating regular baked potatoes loaded with veggies for dinner, but haven't ever seen a sweet potato version! This is going on my list to try, thanks!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline @ Pink Basil

I try and challenge myself to not be the first one to comment on your new posts. But the truth of the matter is, like Kasey from TTKitchen, I check back to your site often hoping my GoogleReader is broken and you've gotten something new up. This looks delicious, Shaun would love love love if I made this sometime soon. I'm like you. Movement is necessary. That's been the best bart of fostering rescue dogs is that I have an excuse to squeeze an extra walk into my day. I'm glad you're giving yourself the gift of self care :)

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey

wow, what a unique way to serve chili! I have a few friends who are reluctant about their veggies, but this is a great way to sneak it in.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodi

I agree! It is so important to find time to do those things, even at the busiest of times! This dish looks so good Sara, I am looking forward to giving it a go! x

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaria @ Scandifoodie

I love this take on a baked potato! The sour cream on top looks heavenly. I always stock dried pintos in my pantry, but I don't use them as much as other beans, so I might need to try this.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNico

I really like this recipe. I hardly ever cook yams, but your pictures look so enticing and I love the flavors you've used. Thanks for the inspiration. Your words about health are spot on- I feel I'm constantly trying to make myself slow down and find the moments for things that rejuvenate me.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterla domestique

Super yum yum. Yams rocks my socks!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

great idea - take time to create balance in all aspects of life.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I don't think I've ever seen or even thought or having chili in a sweet little yam "boat" love it and def will be making this one!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarb Bamber

Good. Grief.

Why again is my face not engulfing that right now?

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBev Weidner

Totally feel you on forcing out creativity. I can't tell you how many times I force myself out of the house and sit in a coffee shop, staring at my computer screen until I have a quasi-idea. Though making time for the things you love to do certainly keeps the mind fresh. Great recipe! Looks awesome. Thanks for sharing.

I agree, sometimes you just have to schedule in creativity/working out to stay sane.
On the recipe, one of my go-to healthy dinners I eat during fall is a sweet potato with cumin black beans and a dollop of greek yogurt-I love sweet potatoes and beans, thanks for the reminder:)

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

what an amazing dish, perfect for welcoming, the last two pics are impressing, love them!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterValeria

i love that you did something unique and interesting with yams. all my foodie friends just love them with maple syrup or brown sugar. i'm like "stop! it's sweet enough on it's own!" looks like those 10:30 pilates classes are paying off with loads of creativity. keep it up!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjordan

This looks like absolute heaven! I must make this ASAP. I love your description of the "end of the driveway" conversations - such a truism and some of the best moments of my life.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Beans make me happy. They really do. Piled on top of a roasted yam, with sour cream and cilantro and I may be ecstatic!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrenee@sweetsugarbean

Oh Sara, you read my mind. All of it-- the driveway talks, the going nuts, the velocity with which I go about my life, not thinking that I'm "allowed" to do things that are pleasurable until there is literally nothing on my to-do list. It's taken me a while to figure out that if I'm not doing things that make me feel healthy, whole, and happy, then they aren't worth my time.
Remember, it IS POSSIBLE to mold and shape life into the creature you want it to resemble. It won't happen overnight, that's for sure, but every effort big and small to make it so will feel less like work and more like the good stuff.
Enough with the mile-long comment! I love yams and yours look delectable. You have one lucky sister.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Oh this looks so fantastic! It's gotten really cold outside so this looks like the perfect thing to warm you up. Could I already make it tonight..? I feel like making baked sweet potatoes with chili beans and oven pancakes.

And you found so wise words about time and holding on to the things you enjoy the most - even when you are stressed out and are running out of time.

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSini

This looks delicious! I can't wait to try it out! :)

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim @ Eat, Live, and Blog

Those beans look so fun!

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGetSkinny GoVegan

Yum! I love sweet potatoes and this looks like such a great idea, perfectly balanced between convenient and special. You also have ESP... I had just a few days ago read about Rancho Gordo beans in and old, old post on 101cookbooks and was planning to order some! Now I am even more excited to. Thank you for another healthy, wholesome, appealing go-to dinner!

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSharon @ Granola Meets Grits

You know, I have one of the busiest months of my life coming up, care to deliver this to me? We can call it a late birthday present. :) I DO NOT use sweet potatoes enough in my cooking, especially whole like this which is a shame because I love them. Great idea for filling, nutritious, and delicious. I'm sure I will think back to this post in the upcoming weeks as I try to squeeze in the things that nourish me when there is no time.

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDana

i have two little yams just waiting to be made into this tomorrow evening. can't wait to give it a try. thanks for the post!

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Not being American, I have always called these little wonders, sweet potatoes. Have been thinking about dinner and after reading this I know exactly what I am going to do with the ones I have in my kitchen right now. Thanks for the inspiration:)

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEdwina

Not being American, I have always called these little gems, sweet potatoes. I have been wondering what to do for dinner tonight, and now I know. Thanks for the inspiration:)

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEdwina

I also love driveway talks! Isn't that funny how sometimes that's where you fit in the best conversation? And I know exactly how you feel about trying to be happy and healthy and balancing it with work. I think it can be particularly hard as a freelancer, artist, or anyone who works from home - I find it that much harder to unplug, to justify even little things like go to the gym. I'm working to change that since I agree, ultimately it is better for creativity and all that. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to get out there. Anyway, this recipe looks great! And your blog is stunning I am so happy to have found it!

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine Martinelli

I have 2 yams on hand and enough pinto beans, we always have greek yogurt (I buy two at a time!)
don't have the San Marzano Tomatoes, but I have Muir Glen Organic; which Americas Test Kitchen touts as one of the best because of the temperature at time of canning I'm pretty excited about trying this recipe for dinner tomorrow. I'll have to find some 'smoked salt'- hopefully my local Nugget or Raleys will have it or I'll have to go to Sacramento to Trader Joes! LOL!

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterzziggysgal

I found you through Twitter and am loving this blog - beautiful, simple, gorgeous recipes. This one looks absolutely gorgeous, and definitely think making the beans from scratch is worth it for the extra flavour and lovely texture. Looking forward to reading more posts :-)

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthelittleloaf

Well. This is precisely what I want to eat, right now. (Yes, at 5:27am.) This is an inspired recipe, Sara. Thank you!

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJess

holala !
it don't look so easy, but really tasty !!

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpierre

So warm. So fall. So good.

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacqui

Yum! Love this, it sounds super delicious and healthy! :)

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersara

Holy moly! What an awesome dish. I've never seen anything like it so you get an A+ for creativity. :)

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn-Louise

mmmmyams! going in the rotation this week! driveway conversations are the best! you totally nailed that.

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertracy

I hear you about needing something to feed your insides each day. A walk or run outside help me tremendously. I too am a big fan of Ranch Gordo. This dish sounds perfect for the chili weather and when you don't want to spend hours in the kitchen. I'm sure your sister loved it.

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradrienne

I don't know what to say, other than that this post could not be more timely or relevant. I've been spending far too much time on my computer with work and my blog. Thank you, Sara, for reminding me to take breaks, walk my dog often, and read real books.

P.s. Savory sweet potatoes are like my favorite thing to eat during the fall. Especially with beans!

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate


September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise | Chez Danisse

OH! Yes. Please. Yum.

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Oh my gosh, we made this tonight and it was outstanding! How did you make such simple ingredients taste SO good? We made ours with canned beans, imposter tomatoes (not real San Marzano), and paprika that, I'm embarrassed to admit, we probably should have replaced years ago (we're not big paprika users... until now) and it was still one of the best new recipes we've tried in a LONG time. Delicious enough to serve to casual company! Perfect use for the smoked salt we bought at Trader Joe's a few weeks back! THANK YOU, Sara! Love it. I will be coming back to this one for sure. Maybe even next week. :)

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSharon @ Granola Meets Grits

these look strangely like sweet potatoes... do you call them yams there? But anyways. One word. YUM. (:

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHannah@ Bake Five

Eeny meeny chili beeny! This looks like something my family would love...we're big yam fans. Looking forward to surprising them with this new recipe. Thanks!

September 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCandace Karu

this recipe changed my mind about needing meat at dinnertime. it was beyond delicious and so filling. thank you for a wonderful recipe!!

September 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercaitlin @ thesubletkitchen

What a fantastical recipe! Love it, want it, bookmarking it.

September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGwen @SimplyHealthyFamily

This sounds divine. Yams and beans...what a hearty combo! Hope you have a lovely weekend. xx

September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Great recipe! Love that this is hearty enough to make a meal for vegetarians.

September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ keepitsimplefoods

Great recipe! I love that this is hearty enough to make a vegetarian meal.

September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ keepitsimplefoods

Nice recipe! My daughter found your blog and suggested it. We both are "foodie".

September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterInga Poslitur

This looks so yummy! I must try this when I can get my hands on some beans. Love the photo of the heirloom beans!

October 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLorelei

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October 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNyam Bai

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