Recently, I was on Pinterest searching for healthy recipes, which if you know anything about Pinterest, is not so easily accomplished. I eventually came across this recipe for “Healthy Mexican Sweet Potato Skins” from the food blog Pinch of Yum. This instantly caught my attention because I’ve really been missing spicy Tex-Mex food since we moved up here. I’ve had spicy Thai food and spicy Indian food, but no spicy food of the Mexican variety or its Texan equivalent.
And although I know it’s not exactly sweet potato season, I love how nutritious they are! These little guys are packed with Vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. Best carbs ever. Plus, they’re an exciting orange color. I bought mine (and the onion) at my favorite neighborhood establishment, U Don’t Know Nothing Produce. It’s like something straight out of Sesame Street: there’s reasonably priced, farm-fresh produce; the aisles are really narrow; and the same man and woman are always working at the cash registers. It’s cute and healthy and only a couple minutes’ walk away!
I had never been a fan of the traditional marshmallow-topped variety of sweet potatoes served at Thanksgiving, but my college roommate Erica changed all that for me. Erica shares my somewhat illogical dietary philosophy that if you make healthy eating choices most of the time, it is perfectly OK to eat more than your fair share of baked goods and ice cream. She taught me how to “bake” a sweet potato in the microwave, which was the perfect healthy dinner fix for a busy college student.
Anyway, my version of Pinch of Yum’s potato skins recipe did not turn out to be potato skins. It turned out to be, well, this:
I swear I’m not a bad cook! This is the first time I’d baked sweet potatoes since making oven-baked sweet potato fries earlier in the summer to go with hamburgers. Those cut-up versions obviously cook a lot faster than the whole versions.
Aside from my failures to make this vegetarian dish as planned, I still enjoyed how it turned out! I’m a huge fan of a mashed potatoes–so much so, in fact, that I think they should have their own special place on the Food Pyramid, preferably near the bottom so I have a good excuse to eat them all of the time. The chipotle peppers in this gave a nice smoky flavor to the sweetness of the potatoes. The corn added a bit of crunch so it wasn’t just a big mushy pile of vegetables, and I never say “no” to something that includes cheese and sour cream.
Because I’m a girl and I’m small, I view this dish as a perfectly acceptable dinner, especially if you serve it with a nice salad on the side. For others though, it might be better as a side, or (I hope this isn’t too weird), rolled up in a tortilla as a sort of vegetarian burrito. Everything tastes better in a tortilla anyway. Everything.
So without further ado, here is my edited version of the recipe, with photographic evidence of the NYC kitchen’s ability to produce edible food, despite its dollhouse-like nature:
Tex-Mex Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 can of corn, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 T butter
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 2-4 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced or pureed
- 1 oz. light cream cheese
- 1/4 cup light sour cream
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 6 T shredded cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. (The 350 degrees suggested in the original recipe did NOT work for me. I did some frenzied Googling on my iPhone and discovered I had to amp up the temperature and cook those poor potatoes for a
bit lot longer to make them mashable.)
2. Give your sweet potatoes a good scrub with water and then a paper towel. Pierce them a few times all over with a fork so they don’t explode on you, then place them on top of foil on a baking sheet. Or if you’re like me, and your oven is too small to hold your brand-new Wilson baking sheets from your wedding registry (*pout*), use your 9×13 Corningware dish. They’ll be in there for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your potatoes.
3. While the potatoes get nice and soft, place the corn in a heavy cast-iron skillet (I used a stainless steel skillet and scrubbed it like crazy after) over medium-high heat with no butter or oil. Just let the corn chill for a bit before you stir it, so it can roast. Stir it after a few minutes, then let it sit. Continue to do this until your corn looks more flavorful than it did when it came out of the can, but not burnt and dried out. I added a little ground pepper and crushed red pepper to mine, too.
4. Set the corn aside in a small bowl, along with the rinsed and drained black beans. I went ahead and added the cilantro. I think I used a lot more than a 1/2 cup because I love cilantro and it’s not exactly cheap for how much a recipe usually calls for. Plus, I think I was foreshadowing my overuse of chipotle peppers later on and knew the cooling flavor of cilantro would help subdue the heat. Riiiight.
5. Saute the chopped onion in the butter over medium heat until soft and translucent. I went ahead and added this to the corn-bean-cilantro mixture, too.
6. Mince the chipotle peppers. I used five, because I’m brave and foolish. I have never, in all my times of preparing Tex-Mex dishes, used canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
What is adobo sauce, you ask? It’s apparently a mixture of tomato, jalapeno, garlic, vinegar, and FIRE. I know this because I conducted extensive research by scrutinizing the back of the can and also by bravely/foolishly dipping my finger into the sauce and taste-testing it.
It also kind of looks like you committed vegetable-murder on your cutting board after.
Go ahead and mix the desired number of minced peppers into your veggie mixture. I saved the extra sauce from the can and added a spoonful or two of it to a half-eaten jar of fail salsa. Seriously, this stuff was like eating tomato sauce before–and now, it’s make-your-nose-run spicy. Just the way I like it. I really think the Desert Pepper Trading Company is trying to fool gullible New Yorkers into believing just because their salsa is made in El Paso, it will actually be good. Lies.
7. Back to the recipe. If you don’t buy pre-shredded cheese, it’s a good idea to do this now. Because baking sweet potatoes takes a while. Go ahead and clean up your mess so far too, while you’re at it.
8. When the potatoes are fork-tender all the way through, cut them in half length-wise and start scooping out the flesh with a spoon and place in a large bowl. If you’re me, you will totally destroy the potato skins in the process and give up on that idea.
But I was hungry and not a quitter! I fetched our 9×9 Pyrex baking dish, sprayed it with Pam (just in case), and got set on making a sort of mashed sweet potato casserole.
9. Using a potato masher, mix the cream cheese and sour cream into the sweet potatoes. I found this part to be extremely enjoyable, as it allowed me to take my aggression out on the sweet potatoes for taking so freaking long to get soft.
10. Mix in your veggie mixture so you get something that is…colorful. Whether or not it actually looks appetizing is debatable.
11. Spread this mixture evenly into your greased square Pyrex pan, top with cheese, and pop in the oven for 5 minutes or so on broil. The cheese should melt and everything should get hot and delicious.
12. Shovel ravenously into mouth. Suffer mild tongue burns, but it’s worth it because you waited sooo long for those sweet potatoes to be done. (Well, hopefully YOU won’t because your oven will be set to an appropriate temperature from the get-go. Oh, well. Now I know…)
I love that this meal is meatless because sometimes meat is just too much of a hassle. You have to be so careful not to contaminate anything and I end up washing my hands 20394823049823 times in the process. Also, meat can be an expensive protein source. I would never cut meat out of my diet completely (no offense, vegetarians/vegans), but it’s nice to mix it up every once in a while.
Although it was a pretty easy recipe, it was time-consuming because of those gosh-darn potatoes and the gosh-darn oven. On the bright side, I got to sneak in an episode of How I Met Your Mother while I waited and wondered how Ted Mosby scored such a fantastically large NYC kitchen. The Upper West Side must be a magical, spacious place.