Do you ever makes something that’s intentionally healthy and unintentionally ends up tasting like the absolute most glorious (and somehow nutrient-filled) junk food you’ve ever tasted? That’s exactly what happened when I made this dish a few weeks ago. It’s been a slower blogging month between recovering from surgery, planning my upcoming trip to Italy, and everything that comes with the new year at work! I’ve been making a lot of no-fuss, not super photogenic food — and turning to my local halal cart for dinner more often than usual.
These, though, I made in a medium-sized batch that lasted for a few days. We had it for dinner the first night, and lunch two days after. It’s really filling, and great for a post-workout meal. Since the Gastrognome and I both have very physically active jobs working in the rock climbing industry, this is something we’re always looking for — especially when it comes to leftovers-as-lunch!
When I gave the gastrognome a taste of the vegan cheese sauce, he was shocked to find that there was no actual dairy in it. It tastes like what the goop on cheese fries wishes it could be, but never quite achieves. Seriously, it even shocked me.
Be warned: this is one of those simple recipes with a lot of steps, so set aside at least 90 minutes to make it. On the flip side, it keeps and re-heats well, so it’s a great option for a meal prep day, or if you’re looking to save time packing lunches for the next few days. The recipe also scales very easily — double it and you can have lunches for a week. You can also roast a larger batch of sweet potatoes this way and use them to make one of my favorite breakfasts: just mash the insides and top with nut butter and berries for a “sweet potato breakfast bowl.”
Vegan Loaded Sweet Potatoes
- 2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes — the ones pictured here are white, but yams work well too! You could make this with regular potatoes as well, but I’m partial to the sweet-and-savory umami bomb that comes from using the naturally sweet starch.
- 2-3 tbsp coconut oil, 1 Tbsp for each potato.
- 1 small head of broccoli
- 1/3 c cashews
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3-4 dashes liquid smoke
- 1 tbsp miso
- 2 tbsp mashed sweet potato
- 2 tbsp plant-based milk (you can adjust this depending on your desired texture)
- Preheat oven to 450 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, rub all over with coconut oil, and place cut-side down on baking sheet. Pierce with a fork and bake for around 45 minutes, or until tender.
- While the potatoes are baking, trim broccoli and blanch in salted water for 4-5 minutes. Drain and rise with cold water, then set aside.
- Soak cashews in hot water for at least 10 minutes. Drain and combine the rest of the ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender. Taste the sauce as you go! You can make adjustments to the texture and taste depending on your preferences.
- When the potatoes are finished, they should look caramelized and browned on the cut sides. Scoop out the insides, then place them back in the skins. Warm the broccoli florets and cheese sauce together over medium heat, then use it to top the sweet potatoes.
More and more often, I find myself turning to plant-based meals. I still love a good Sunday roast or a long braise, and barbecue is one of my favorite things of all time, but it feels better and is a more sustainable practice to eat seasonal plants more often than not. I’ve been slowly shifting my perspective in this direction, finding myself somewhere on the half-vegan spectrum, and I’m totally happy with that. I don’t need to live at either extreme.
This dish is perfect for when you just want something warm, comforting, good, and good for you. You can add additional ingredients, change things, around, and generally make it your own. You can even use *gasp* actual cheese sauce if that’s your thing — but I really encourage you to give this plant-based version a try! Trust me, it’s worth it.
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