Entrée, Gluten Free, Winter, Fall

BAKED SWEET POTATOES WITH CHILI BEANS

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 :)

BAKED SWEET POTATOES WITH CHILI BEANS // Serves 4

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

Cilantro

Chopped Red Onion

Avocado

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.