FOOD: These loaded potatoes pack a healthy punch

PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN
This baked sweet potato with herbed chickpeas and lemon-tahini drizzle is “very easy,” says chef Emily Scott. You “could even make the components ahead.”
PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN This baked sweet potato with herbed chickpeas and lemon-tahini drizzle is “very easy,” says chef Emily Scott. You “could even make the components ahead.”
Photo courtesy of Savory: fast, fresh and easyLove sloppy joes? Try this vegetarian version on a baked potato.
Photo courtesy of Savory: fast, fresh and easyLove sloppy joes? Try this vegetarian version on a baked potato.

Another hot potato…

Rather stick with tradition? Here’s a recipe packed with pepper jack cheese, garlic and sour cream.

Pepper Jack Cheese Stuffed Potatoes

Ingredients

4 (8 ounces each) baking potatoes, scrubbed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced

¾ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers

2 tablespoons chopped green onions OR fresh chives, divided

Chopped tomatoes (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes for 1 hour or until tender; cool slightly for ease in handling. Cut potatoes lengthwise in half; scoop out potatoes leaving ¼-inch shells. Set aside to cool. In a small skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add garlic; cook, stirring occasionally for 1 to 2 minutes. Mash potatoes. Stir in garlic butter, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, 1 tablespoon of the green onion, salt and pepper; mix well. Spoon potato mixture into potato shells; place on baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining onion and tomatoes; add more cheese, if desired.

RECIPE COURTESY OF PENNSYLVANIA DAIRY PROMOTION PROGRAM/PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Piled high with toppings, stuffed potatoes qualify as classic comfort food. But with a few easy changes, chefs transform them into nutritional powerhouses. And so can you.

“You can feel like you’re indulging, but you don’t have to feel guilty about it,” said Shelly Hughes of Plant Based Foody in West Chester, who smothers sweet potatoes with black beans, tomato, avocado and dairy-free pine nut “sour cream.”

“It’s decadent, but it’s filling. And it’s also healthy,” added the cooking instructor and health coach. “The pine nuts — you don’t have to soak, so you can have a quick ‘sour cream’ in 2 minutes.”

West Chester chef Emily Scott also heads straight for sweet potatoes, pairing them with herbed rice, chickpeas and lemon-tahini drizzle.

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“This recipe is nutritious and very hearty,” she described. “I would serve it with steamed greens or a nice big salad to make a complete plant-based meal. I also like that you could really use whatever beans, herbs or spices you have on hand to change up the flavors, depending on your mood.”

Quinoa works too for a loaded potato “full of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals — with very little added fat.”

And that’s no small potatoes.

Baked Sweet Potato with Herbed Chickpeas and Lemon-Tahini Drizzle

Ingredients

4 sweet potatoes

Herbed rice and chickpeas:

1 cup rice (any type will work)

2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Olive oil, to taste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly chopped parsley

Freshly chopped chives

For lemon-tahini drizzle:

½ cup sesame tahini

3 large cloves garlic

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 to 5 tablespoons water

Salt to taste

Instructions

For the baked sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a fork, pierce the skin of 4 sweet potatoes, 5 to 6 times. Place on baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Combine rice, broth and garlic in a medium saucepot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook until tender (20 to 40 minutes depending on the type of rice). Fluff rice with a fork, then stir in the chickpeas, a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, chopped parsley and some chopped chives. Play with the seasoning until it tastes just right to you.

Place the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons water into the bowl of a food processor. Blend well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and adding enough additional water to create a sauce with a smooth, pourable consistency. Season to taste with salt.

To serve: Split baked potato in half and top with a generous scoop of the herbed rice. Finish it all off with a nice drizzle of lemon-tahini sauce. Enjoy!

RECIPE COURTESY OF CHEF EMILY SCOTT

Loaded Sweet Potato & Refried Black Beans

Ingredients

4 sweet potatoes

2 cups water

Refried black beans:

1 white onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

4 cups vegetable stock

½ tablespoon ground cumin

3 cups black beans, cooked and drained

Salt and pepper to taste

Pine nut “sour cream” ingredients:

1 cup pine nuts

1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

1/8 teaspoon salt

Optional toppings:

Tomato

Avocado

Instructions

For sweet potatoes: Rinse and scrub the sweet potatoes clean. Place the steamer basket and 2 cups of water in and Instant Pot or a pressure cooker. Add the clean sweet potatoes. Seal the lid on Instant Pot and manually set the time for 17 minutes. Let the pressure reduce naturally. Total time in the Instant Pot is about 30 minutes for sweet potatoes to be tender. Ready to serve with favorite toppings of refried black beans, tomatoes, avocado and touch of pine nut “sour cream.” Serves 4 to 6.

Note: If you don’t have a pressure cooker, roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour until fork-tender.

To make refried black beans: In a hot pan, add onions and reduce the heat to medium. Add a tablespoon at a time of broth if the onions begin to stick. Once the onions are translucent, then add garlic, jalapeño and then the cumin. Stir. Add in ¼ cup of vegetable stock to deglaze the pan and help caramelize the onion. Add the beans and all the rest of the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the beans are soft. Using a masher, mash the beans in the pan until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Time: 1 hour. Serves 4 to 6.

For pine nut “sour cream”: Place all the ingredients in a high-powered blender like a Vitamix or a NutriBullet for 1 minute and blend. Ready to serve. Serves 6 to 8. Refrigerate for 5 to 6 days.

RECIPE COURTESY OF SHELLY HUGHES, PLANTBASEDFOODY.COM

Vegetarian Sloppy Joe Baked Potato

This twist on a classic sloppy joe is meat-free and served over a potato instead of a bun. Top with all your favorite baked potato garnishes like shredded cheese and sour cream.

Ingredients

1 cup dried lentils

6 russet potatoes

1 green bell pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup diced onion

½ cup diced carrot

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon chili powder

Instructions

Prepare the lentils according to package directions in water or vegetable stock. Meanwhile, pierce potatoes all over with a fork and microwave on high for 10 minutes, flipping once, or until tender. Dice the bell pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the onion, carrot and diced bell pepper until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato sauce along with the remaining ingredients and simmer, 15 minutes or until sauce has thickened and reduced slightly.

Once lentils are cooked, gently toss them into the tomato mixture and simmer until mixture is warmed through, about 5 minutes more. Meanwhile, cut a slit into each potato. Top potatoes with veggie sloppy joe sauce. Serves 6.

RECIPE COURTESY OF SAVORY: FAST, FRESH AND EASY