I was traveling for a wedding over the weekend. Last week felt a little rushed, as days before heading out of town often do. In keeping with the mood, my meals were very easy and very fast: sandwiches, wraps, stuff on toast. And these vegan beef and zucchini stuffed sweet potatoes.
Travel aside, I’ve had a hard time working back up to my usual cooking enthusiasm since passing the RD exam. I had it in my head that I’d immediately jump back into the kitchen, but so far, fall baking and desserts seem to be the only projects that are really speaking to me; the rest of the time, I’ve stuck with the same sorts of very quick meals that I was making during the last few months of my internship.
I’ve learned over the years that it’s normal to go through phases as a home cook: sometimes you’re inspired and full of creative energy, and sometimes cooking feels more like a necessity than a pleasure. Sometimes it even feels like a chore, in which case I think it’s fine to work with the feeling and make cooking as low-maintenance as possible. Sooner or later I always reconnect with my love of being in the kitchen, at which point I can start to become more playful again.
Until I feel more inspired, I’m happy to work with my low-key cooking energy, rather than against it. And there’s a lot to be said for doing that, because my nutrition clients are always eager for meal ideas that don’t take the form of a formal recipe, but rather involve a few staple ingredients that can be put together quickly.
These stuffed sweet potatoes are a good example of the kinds of fast, nutritious dishes that end up on my table often these days—and I’m particularly happy to share them because they were inspired by my work with a client. I’ve made plenty of sweet potatoes stuffed with legumes in the past, but sometimes it’s nice to have an even higher-protein option, and I usually have a bag of vegan beef-style crumbles in my freezer, along with some chopped and frozen greens.
If you give these ingredients a quick sauté along with onion and zucchini, they turn into a very nutrient-dense and satisfying topping for a baked sweet potato. Once it’s all put together, you’ve got a true power plate: protein, complex carbs, some healthful fat from the vegan meat (plus extra if you’d like to top this with avocado, vegan cheese sauce, or yum sauce).
There’s nothing fancy here, and I’m sure that more spices and additions would make this an even more memorable recipe. But sometimes, good enough really is good enough.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (substitute a few tablespoons vegetable broth)
- small onion, diced
- 1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 cup vegan beef-style crumbles or grounds (substitute crumbled tempeh, tofu, or lentils)
- 3/4 cup frozen chopped dark leafy greens, reheated according to package instructions (you can use fresh greens, too, and cook them for a few minutes longer than the recipe indicates)
- 2 teaspoons Bragg's Liquid Aminos or tamari
- Optional toppings:
vegan cheese sauce, yum sauce, vegan parmesan, chopped avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds, salsa
- Preheat your oven to 400F. Prick the potatoes a few times with a fork and place them on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, or until very tender.
- When the potatoes are almost done, heat the oil or broth in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and zucchini. Sauté, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the onion is clear and the vegetables are all tender. Stir in the beef style crumbles, cumin, and smoked paprika. Reduce the heat of the skillet to low, cover it, and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the crumbles are heated through. Stir in the frozen and cooked greens. Season the mixture with tamari or Braggs (you can adjust the amount stated to your taste).
- Split each sweet potato open and mash the flesh inside a little with the back of a fork. Top each potato with half of the beef and zucchini mixture. Serve, with any toppings you like.
Thanks to all of you for bearing with me as I get my kitchen bearings back ? And if you have any not-recipe meal ideas or requests—things you often have at home and would love to see incorporated into some quick lunches or dinners—I’m all ears.
Wishing you all a good Tuesday. I’ve got another recipe for you later this week, one that can lend itself to lots of packed lunches as fall carries on. I’m excited to share!