I've had some fun cooking challenges lately. For Myrna, a blogging friend whom I invited to dinner last week I planned a gluten, corn, soy and dairy free meal. It was easier than I thought. Potato splats, chicken with olives, capers and oranges, salad and a vegetable that I can't remember just now. For dessert, a coconut milk crème caramel.
On Monday, friends from Victoria came for dinner. One of them is on a 21-day cleanse, which consisted basically of gluten-free vegan. She didn't make a big deal of it, and would have eaten whatever I'd cooked, but since I knew she was doing this, I decided to see how I could accommodate her. The result is in the above photo: Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes with a hint of heat from chipotle pepper and fresh ginger, a Brown Rice Pilaf, and Green Beans with Fresh Tomatoes cooked down with a little garlic and balsamic vinegar.
I was very pleased with the blend of flavours and the satisfying quality of the meal. I would probably miss cheese more than meat, but trying out a new way of cooking was enjoyable.
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
4 medium to large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With the tip of a knife, poke a few holes into each sweet potato. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until tender, 45-70 minutes. Let cool until they can be handled.
While the potatoes are cooling, heat the 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a pan. Over low to medium heat sauté the onion until very tender, but not brown. Stir in the fresh ginger and chipotle powder.
Cut a thin slice from the top of each sweet potato. Gently scoop out the insides, leaving a thin shell against the skin. Lightly mash the sweet potato centers and stir in the onion mixture. Add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil, salt and the fresh lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt or lemon juice as wanted. The chipotle pepper powder tends to increase heat with time, so be judicious in adding more.
Spoon the seasoned sweet potato mixture back into the shells. These can be prepared ahead to this point, then refrigerated. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the potatoes until hot through, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds to serve, if desired.
Brown Rice Pilaf
1 1/2 cup brown rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cups of vegetable broth (or chicken broth for non-vegans)
2 scallions, sliced (use both the green and white parts)
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Sauté the minced garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the rice. Stir until all the grains are coated with oil. Add the salt, lemon juice and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the rice is tender. Just before serving, stir in the sliced scallions.