Loaded Vegetarian Sweet Potatoes
Logan LOVES to scare me.
And I’m not talking about his eating habits and music taste here (although those are undeniably terrifying)—I mean it much more literally. The dude takes great pleasure in hiding behind things/sneaking up on me just to witness my reaction. Said reaction typically involves me screaming at the top of my lungs and spilling drinks, dropping things, and/or falling down. Not gonna lie, there are sometimes tears.
Just to give you an idea of what I’m dealing with, the first time Logan really got me was in the shower. Not long after we became roommates, he snuck into the bathroom one Saturday morning and suuuuper quietly pulled back just enough of the shower curtain to fit his head. I was rinsing my hair with my back to him, and when I turned around to grab the conditioner, he screamed, “BOO!” right in my face. I thought I was having a heart attack, and Logan is very lucky I didn’t slip and die right then and there.
(He’s now done it so many times that I’m perpetually on my guard in the shower. Fact.)
You’d think Logan would have grown tired of scaring me after five years (or at least taken pity on his anxiety-prone girlfriend), but he’s only upped his game. He regularly hides behind the door at the top of our stairwell (I don’t exercise, so it takes me much longer than him to climb the stairs), and I’ve now come to expect it, so I usually open the door yelling, “I know you’re there, you [insert choice expletive]!!!” Sometimes he’s there, sometimes he isn’t. Either way, Logan finds these outbursts very entertaining, especially when there are other people around.
This scene played out last weekend post-brunch, but this time he wasn’t at the top of the stairwell. Figuring he’d be waiting for me in the nook by our apartment door, I sprinted down the hall, turned the corner, and shouted, “HA!” He wasn’t there. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking, “Thank God he’s being normal sauce today and not trying to kill me,” as I unlocked the apartment. Feeling safe, I calmly shut the door and took off my coat.
Logan pounced just as I turned to hang it up. (He’d been waiting in the kitchen.) It took at least an hour for my breathing to stabilize.
I’ve obviously tried to get back at Logan over the years, but the dude is practically un-scareable. The stairwell scare isn’t really an option (let’s be real, I’m never going to be the first one up the stairs), and my countless attempts at the shower surprise have failed miserably. He always knows I’m there (how??!), and sometimes he’ll turn around really fast, which just ends up scaring me.
Luckily, I’ve found one very simple way to exact my revenge. Since Logan finds nothing scarier than a meatless meal, I’ve taken to sneaking well-disguised vegetarian creations into our regular rotation, waiting until he’s hoovered his dinner to reveal my secrets. It all started with some Dude Diet tofu lettuce wraps (recipe coming in da book), which he happily crushed under the illusion that they were chicken. I’m very pleased to report that the meltdown that took place when I dropped the tofu bomb was on par with my reaction to the first shower scare.
Still basking in that win.
So, for my next trick, I plan to serve Logan these epic Vegetarian Loaded Sweet Potatoes. I imagine his response to the truth about the “meaty” filling will be one for the books…
The filling in these bad boys (which, as you can see, looks shockingly similar to ground beef) is simply Portobello mushrooms cooked with yellow onions and a heady mix of Mexican-themed spices. It’s hearty and satisfying with a hint of heat and acidity, and the shrooms’ glorious flavor profile is slightly reminiscent of chorizo’s. I dig this veggie filling in everything from tacos and burrito bowls to lettuce wraps, but stuffed in a roasted sweet potato, blanketed with a layer of bubbling cheese, and smothered in fresh cherry tomato pico de gallo? Scary good (for vegetarians and meat lovers alike).
The dude won’t know what hit him.
Some quick real talk about this recipe. I’m well aware that some of you will lose your shit when you see the length of the ingredient list and instructions. Be not afraid! Most of the necessary goods are spices and pantry staples, and while there are a few steps involved, assembling these stuffed spuds is surprisingly simple. The sweet potatoes will take close to an hour to roast (breathe), but you can use that time to leisurely prep the mushroom filling, whip up the pico (and maybe some guac), and make phone calls/watch an episode/listen to a podcast. Once the sweet potatoes are done, you just mash up their insides, add the spiced mushrooms and some pepper jack, and pop them under the broiler for a minute to let the cheese get nice and melty. Boom, DONE. Top things off with salsa and guac and have yourself a little fiesta.
And now, the requisite you do you options. Mushroom haters and/or those not into a meatless surprise, feel free to replace the portobellos with 8-12 ounces of ground chicken breast, turkey, or lean ground beef. (If you go that route, mince the onions, cook them in the olive oil until soft, add the spices and cook for 1-2 minutes, and then add the meat.) Paleo and vegan peeps can ditch the cheese and drizzle the potatoes with chipotle cashew cream. Spice addict? Chop up a chipotle pepper canned in adobo and mash it into the flesh of the sweet potatoes or use a large jalapeño in your salsa. Oh, and if you have an avocado on hand but don’t feel like making guac, simply dice it up and stir it into the pico. Easy.
Loaded Vegetarian Sweet Potatoes: (Serves 4)
4 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
For the Mushroom Filling:
4 Portobello mushroom caps
¼ yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (You can sub regular chili powder and a pinch of cayenne if you must.)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Cherry Tomato Pico de Gallo:
1 dry pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1 small jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1/3-½ cup chopped cilantro (Depending on how much you love cilantro. I love it a lot.)
1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane (or finely minced)
1 lime, juiced
Fresh ground pepper
For serving: (optional)
Preparing your Loaded Vegetarian Sweet Potatoes:
-Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and spray it lightly with cooking spray. (You really don’t want your sweet potatoes to stick.) Scrub your sweet potatoes and pat them dry. Pierce each potato 2 or three times with a fork, and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour until the potatoes are very tender. (Heads up, if you’re using bigger potatoes, they may take up to 1 hour and 15 minutes.)
-While the potatoes roast, get going on your mushroom filling. Start by prepping the mushrooms, wash the caps well, pat them dry, and remove the stems. Using a spoon, remove the dark gills from their undersides. Roughly chop the cleaned caps.
-Roughly chop the cleaned caps and add them to the bowl of a food processor with the onions. Pulse a few times until finely chopped. (You can also chop your mushrooms finely by hand if you don’t have a food processor.)
-Heat the olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the spices and salt to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until they’re toasted and fragrant.
-Add the mushrooms and onions to the pan along with the apple cider vinegar. (It will seem like a lot of ‘shrooms, but they’re going to cook down!)
-Cook for 10-12 minutes until the mushrooms have released all their liquid. Then turn up the heat to high and cook for a minute or two to get a little crispy/char on some of the mushrooms. (This mix will look a little like ground beef.) Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and cover with foil.)
-Moving on to the pico de gallo. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
-Assembly time. Cut a slit in the top of each sweet potato and roughly mash the insides with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.
-Spoon a quarter of the mushroom filling into each of the sweet potatoes.
-Pre-heat your broiler on high. Top each potato with ¼ cup cheese. Place the sweet potatoes under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbling, usually about 2 minutes.
-Transfer the potatoes to a serving dish (or individual plate/bowls) and top with plenty of pico de gallo.
-Serve with a dollop of guacamole and extra lime wedges if you’re feeling festive.
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