Pump up the yams: Dairy or dairy-free crispy sweet potato skins with spinach and shiitake bacon

So if you know me you know that I don’t care about football (cue shock and horror). But I can get behind anything associated with food. I love that watching football requires an array of tasty eats. Tasty not so good for you eats. With the Super Bowl is coming up, some friends on the Whole 30 or just watching what they eat have asked me for ideas. That was all the incentive I needed to post a creation I made for last year’s Super Bowl. Stay away from the tasty but not so gut friendly potato skins and opt instead of crispy sweet potato skins stuffed with spinach and cashew cheese and topped with shiitake bacon. For those of you who want more protein and don’t care about the inclusion of dairy or processed foods – I have a cottage cheese alternative (you would never know it was cottage cheese) that you can top with tempeh/seitan bacon. Crispy, gooey, savory good for you snack food.

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Ok. So it is not really a yam. Just the yam’s cousin, a tasty sweet potato. But yams are hard to find in this country. Instead we have a variety of sweet potatoes – orange, white, purple and more.

Compared to a regular white potato, sweet potatoes have more vitamins, minerals and fiber and despite the higher sugar content, they have fewer calories and carbs. Some people don’t like the sweetness of a sweet potato. Keep your eyes out in the store for other varieties, like the Japanese sweet potato, which have white flesh, less sugar and thus do not taste sweet. Don’t be fooled by the skin – white sweet potatoes may have red, brown or pink skins and white interiors – so read labels or ask until you get used to spotting them.

The recipe has a lot of small parts that can be made individually and set aside.

Wash the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and stab the outside of the potato with a fork a few times to create vents. Bake them for 45 minutes or until they are soft and the insides can be scooped out.  Set skins aside.20160207_111903

Scoop the insides into a bowl and mash them until smooth. Saute shallots in a skillet for 1-2 min. Add in mashed sweet potato flesh, salt and cayenne, mix well and cook together for 5-8 min. Add in baby spinach and mix until wilted. Remove from heat and set aside. There is always more filling than skins – I use the extra in brunch with an egg over easy, or as a side to a meal, or wrapped in a lettuce leaf with some shiitake bacon – the possibilities are endless.

To substitute for the bacon, I make shiitake bacon. It has the hickory smoke of bacon, can have the chewiness of fat and the crispiness. For those of you that don’t think anything can substitute for bacon, nothing will satisfy you. But this is to provide that garnish which really adds a dept of flavor, salty and smokiness to the skin. For those of you that follow me, this is in a lot of my recipes, starting with my Whole30 inspired veggie lo-mein.

They are not hard to make – just require a lot of special ingredients. Otherwise, use store bought tempeh or seitan bacon (note the soy and grains amongst other things. But my favorite is Sweet Earth’s benevolent bacon.)

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The vegan cheese is simple to make but it does require a blending and cooking. This is the same cheese I use for my baked almond crusted jalapeno poppers (another good superbowl snack option). The cashews make it smooth and creamy. The pine nuts and nutritional yeast make it nutty. The tapioca flour makes it sticky and stringy like cheese. And the lemon helps that process. The cheese is rich, flavorful and smooth.

After soaking cashews and pine nuts and blending all the ingredients together to a smooth liquid, it needs to be cooked. With continuous stirring, it begins to clump and become gooey. Keep stirring….

…And stirring and eventually it becomes smooth and sticky – almost like a roux. Remove it from the heat and let cool.

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For the dairy protein-ful cottage cheese version, simply blend all the ingredients in a food processor or vitamix until smooth and creamy.

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Now it is time to prep the skins and assemble.

Oil the inside and outside of the skin lightly and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the skin skin-side up on a baking sheet and broil until skins start to crisp (about 2-3 min). Flip the skins over skin side down and broil until the edges brown. Remove from the oven.

On a tray with the skins laid out, spread a very thin layer of the cheese, add a small amount of the filling, top with a small amount of cheese, chopped bacon and broil for a few minutes until cheese is bubbly and skin edges are crisp.

Top with scallion.

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Share. Eat. Enjoy.

Shiitake Bacon

  • 3 large Shiitake caps thinly sliced ( roughly 5 oz or 2 cups) Save the stems for a stock or miso.
  • 1 Tbs melted coconut oil (you can use safflower as coconut may seize up during marination. I marinated under warm conditions. Also olive is possible but the smoke point of EVOO is 375 degrees F so I would bake for longer at a lower temp)
  • 3/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1.5 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp coconut aminos (coconut aminos are paleo/whole30 friendly. If using Bragg’s remember it is more salty so adjust accordingly)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all of the ingredients except for the sliced shiitake and whisk together. Add the sliced shiitake and use hands to thoroughly coat. Marinate for 20 min.

Place the shiitake in a single layer onto a oiled baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, flip, then bake for an additional 10 minutes. Keep an eye that they do not burn. The thinner they are sliced, the less they need to cook. Make sure they are cooked through so they are crispy once cool, rather than chewy.

Remove from the oven and place on paper towels. As remaining liquid is drained, they will continue to crisp.

Nut Based Dairy-Free Faux Cheese (Option 1)

  • 1/2 C. raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts
  • 2 Tbs nutritional yeast
  • 6  Tbs tapioca flour
  • 1.5  tsp sea salt
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Soak cashews and pine nuts in room temperature water for 3 hours or hot water for 15-20 minutes and then drain. Blend all ingredients together in a blender until completely smooth, about 1-5 minute depending on the power of the blender until smooth and blended. Pour into a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will separating – becoming gloopy or curdled – but this is normal. Keep cooking and stirring until very thick (about 5 min) and starts to become gooey and stretchy – like a thick roux or paste. Remove from heat and and let cool to room temp. If not using or and left over, cover and place in the fridge for up to one week.

Dairy protein filled cheese (option 2)

  • 1cup cottage cheese
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 small garlic clove

Blend together until smooth in a food processor or vitamix.

Sweet potato skins

  • 4 small sweet potato, scrubbed
  • olive or coconut oil
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 1 cup baby spinach, washed
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • chopped scallion or chives for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a fork poke a few vent holes along one side of the potato. Place on an oiled baking dish and bake for about 45 min until soft and mushy on the inside.

Cut lengthwise in half and scoop out the inside. Place  skin aside for now. Put the flesh into a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, a food processor or hand mixer, mix sweet potato until it is smooth.

Over medium heat, place a drizzle of oil onto a skillet and saute shallots for about 5 min. Add in the sweet potato flesh, salt and cayenne, mix well and cook for 5-8 min. add in baby spinach and mix until wilted. Remove from heat.

Oil the inside and outside of the skin lightly and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the skin skin-side up on a baking sheet and broil until skins start to crisp (about 2-3 min). Flip the skins so they are skin side down over and broil until the edges brown. Remove from the oven. Add in a small amount of cheese, a small amount of the potato mixture, a small amount of cheese, chopped shiitake bacon and broil for another 3-5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and remove from the oven. Garnish with scallion or chives. Serve immediately.

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