Sweet Potato Kale Curry

This easy Sweet Potato and Kale Curry is packed with nutrients and just happens to be vegan!

Before I dive into telling you of the wonders of this Sweet Potato and Kale Curry, allow me to remind everyone that I am not a vegan—not even close. Though I do like to limit my meat consumption, especially red meat, it’s rare for me to eat a meal that’s totally vegan. Which is what always makes it surprising when a vegan dinner becomes one of my favorites…like this amazing recipe.

These days, in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m always looking for meals that are healthy and easy to pull together. With my kids home very day doing online school, I swear all they’re doing is sitting on laptops eating Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles (except for the times when I force them to go outside or run around the house a few times). And then there’s me. I’ll confess, my pandemic eating habits haven’t been stellar. With reduced activity and a dip in diet quality, I’m especially motivated lately to feed us all a healthy dinner.

This Sweet Potato and Kale Curry has been a particular lifesaver. It’s full of nutrients like vitamin A from sweet potatoes, vitamin K from kale, and fiber off the charts from the veggies and chickpeas. Not to mention, with minimal prep and about 18 minutes total cooking time, it’s a genuine 30 minute meal.

Now, this may sound well and good for health nuts who don’t mind flavorless food, but hold your peace until you’ve tried the coconut milk broth in this curry. Mild but rich, it’s the kind that makes you wish you’d made an entire separate batch just for sipping.

If you’re like me, I think you’ll find a little sweet potatoes and kale over rice will do your average pandemic dinnertime a world of good, whether you’re a vegan, a meat eater, or somewhere in between.

Sweet Potato and Kale Curry

Ready in 30 minutes, this easy vegan curry is a great choice for a healthy weeknight. Its coconut milk broth is especially delish!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 3 small or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 15-oz. full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 5 c. torn kale leaves
  • 4 c. cooked jasmine rice

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add curry powder and cook an additional minute.
  • Add diced sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft.
  • Add kale to the skillet and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Serve over cooked jasmine rice.

Notes

Adapted from The Kitchn.

Beef and Bean Nacho Casserole

Who doesn’t love nachos? This Beef and Bean Nacho Casserole layers ground beef, black beans, melty cheddar, sour cream, and more on crispy tortilla chips for a delicious, easy Mexican dinner.


Remember recipe keepers? As in, the OG Pinterest? When I got married, a friend gave me this once-stylish (and once covered) Trapper Keeper-esque recipe binder–complete with pockets for recipes torn from magazines and plenty of space to write down favorite breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and more.

Just like new…😂

Please ignore my awkwardly placed finger in this photo.

Little did I know that the internet would soon virtually eliminate my need for such a thing. With every recipe under the sun online, there’s less and less call for physical recipe keepers.

And yet…I do still actually use this book. (I’m in the generation that straddles the line between liking old school pen and paper and digital everything.) As you can probably tell from its appearance, this binder has seen 16 years of flipping, sorting, and stuffing. And while there are plenty of recipes I made in 2004 that I’d never consider now–lookin’ at you, chili with a spaghetti sauce base (yikes)–there are some I come back to time and again.


This Beef and Bean Nacho Casserole is one of them. Can you see why? Look at that gooey melted cheese, those dollops of sour cream, those lovable pops of cherry tomatoes! Come on, this meal is a nacho lover’s DREAM.

I honestly don’t know where this recipe originally came from, but it’s been in my recipe keeper almost since I acquired it. Some generous soul must have shared it with me, knowing what an inexperienced cook I was back then. Over the years I’ve tweaked it to make it my own. I’ve added fire-roasted corn, extra taco seasoning, and changed it from a single layer to a double layer. It’s not rocket science, certainly, but I can tell you it does make a crave-able Mexican meal that feeds a crowd. ‘Cause who doesn’t love nachos?

Typically, of course, nachos are not without their issues. The problem with making them in the microwave or under the broiler is getting the cheese to melt just right. Go too long and you’ll get a plate of scorched, blackened cheese crust–but too short a duration leaves you with a weird mish-mash that can’t decide if it’s melted or unmelted.

This recipe solves the problem by baking at 350 for about 30 minutes–perfect cheese-melting conditions, if you ask me. And though it may seem strange to bake dollops of sour cream, I promise it turns out as creamy as ever. Meanwhile, black beans add texture and fiber, and slivers of green onion finish things off with a piquant bite.

Hungry yet? Grab your nacho ingredients and get cooking! And tell me…do you have a recipe keeper? What’s yours like, and is it as messy (and well-loved) as mine?

Beef and Bean Nacho Casserole

In this delicious Mexican dinner, layers of ground beef, black beans, cheddar cheese, and more cover tortilla chips. Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes and you're done!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Servings: 8 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
  • 2 c. salsa
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. taco seasoning
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn kernels, preferably fire-roasted
  • 5 c. tortilla chips, roughly crushed
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 c. green onions, sliced

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • In a large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain, then add black beans, salsa, taco seasoning, and frozen corn. Cook until heated through.
  • Spread half the crushed tortilla chips in a layer in the prepared pan. Top with half the beef-bean mixture. Dollop with half the sour cream and sprinkle with half the cheddar. Repeat these layers: chips, beef-bean mixture, sour cream, shredded cheddar. Distribute halved cherry tomatoes, cut side down, over the top of the casserole and sprinkle with slicedgreen onions.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until heated through and cheese has melted.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Easy Canned Tuna Poke Bowl

Want to recreate restaurant-style poke bowls on the cheap? Use canned tuna and canned crab in this easy canned tuna poke bowl!



Not long ago I posed a question on A Love Letter to Food’s Facebook page:

I love asking open-ended questions on social media because, not only does it get plenty of engagement from readers, but usually gets me thinking. When I asked this particular question, friends and followers had PLENTY of answers. And, seeing as how most of us have been deprived of the restaurant experience for weeks, if not months, I get it. I’m chomping at the bit as much as anyone to actually go OUT to eat.

In fact, for me, the Covid-19 restaurant ban has actually been a proving ground for determining which restaurants actually have good food and which I apparently go to for their ambiance or other factors. If all I can get is takeout, that takeout better be worth it! One type of restaurant whose food I’ve realized I genuinely miss? Poke bowl joints.

A wee bit of backstory: It took me until about age 30 before I ever acquiesced to eating sushi. Like most sushi-averse folks, the thought of eating raw fish seemed SO VERY WRONG. But eventually my husband convinced me to try a local sushi place with famously fresh rolls and my eyes were opened to the amazingness of this culinary wonder. After getting on the sushi bandwagon, you better believe poke bowls were an easy next step. I love their combo of mild and spicy flavors, and they can be surprisingly healthy, too!

Besides that, poke bowls are the Chipotle burritos of Asian food–convenient, customizable, and uncomplicated. And, even though we can’t eat them at restaurants at the moment, they’re pretty easy to make at home. This version is super budget-friendly, using canned tuna and canned crab (I know, it could be a lot fancier with sushi-grade tuna, but we’re going for inexpensive here, mmkay?) Topped with a spicy sriracha aioli–my favorite part of any poke bowl–these are a tasty at-home version of the fast-casual favorite.

So add what you like, take out what you like, and enjoy!

Easy Canned Tuna Poke Bowl

Quick to prep and easy on your budget, this canned tuna poke bowl is a great at-home version of a restaurant favorite.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

For the sriracha aioli:

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt, to taste

For the poke bowls:

  • 1 1/2 c. dry white rice
  • 10 oz. frozen edamame
  • 5.3 oz. can albacore tuna packed in water, drained
  • 6 oz. can white crab meat, drained
  • 1 c. shredded carrot
  • 1 c. cucumber, diced
  • fried onions, for garnish
  • sesame seeds, for garnish
  • sliced green onions, for garnish

Instructions

Make the sriracha aioli:

  • In a measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the bowls:

  • In a large pot, make rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, microwave edamame according to package directions and prep all other ingredients.
  • Assemble 4 individual bowls, dividing rice, edamame, tuna, crab, carrot, and cucumber among all. Garnish with fried onions, sesame seeds, and green onions. Top with sriracha aioli.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.

Thanksgiving Grain Bowl

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving food? I’m not sure I could pick just one. If truly pressed, I might say mashed potatoes, but there are SO many other tasty options: green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and more. (And let’s not even START on desserts.)

Fortunately, this healthy Thanksgiving Grain Bowl offers the flavors of several turkey day favorites all in one! This easily modifiable recipe works well for throwing together a bowl full of leftovers–or for when you just want something a little lighter. Roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and feta come together with high-fiber, protein-packed quinoa and a sweet-and-tangy olive oil dressing.

Sounds just about right for the day after Thanksgiving, yes?

And while we’re talking Thanksgiving, let me pull out my nutritionist hat with a little dietary advice. It’s all too easy to overdo it at Thanksgiving dinner, but this year, try to remember that how much you eat is up to YOU. Just because it’s a tradition to down every single item in the family buffet, it’s not actually required. You can enjoy a great meal without getting to the end of it feeling like you’re about to burst. Choose what you really want to eat and let the rest go. And just say no to food pushers! If Grandma or Aunt Carla says you absolutely must eat her marshmallow-sweet potato concoction, indulge her with a bite, not a giant scoop. It’s your body, your meal, your decision.

Here’s to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! And check out my post on 10 Ways to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Grain Bowl

All your favorite flavors of Thanksgiving in a healthy grain bowl! Great for day-after-Thanksgiving leftovers or any time you want a satisfying vegetarian meal.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

For the grain bowl:

  • 1 c. brussels sprouts, sliced in half
  • 2 1/2 c. butternut squash, diced into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 c. quinoa
  • 3 c. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 c. pepitas

For the dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, spread brussels sprouts and butternut squash in two separate groups. Drizzle both with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle butternut squash with nutmeg and thyme. Roast about 30 minutes, stirring once.
  • While veggies roast, cook the quinoa. In a medium pot, bring quinoa and veggie broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Make the dressing: In a small measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients, or blend with an immersion blender.
  • Assemble the whole thing: In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables, cooked quinoa, cranberries, feta, and pepitas. Stir in dressing and toss to combine.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

Last weekend, while I was out at the toddler cooking class I teach once a month, my husband got together with a group of guys for a Sausage Festival. I’m not being gross. They literally hung out for several hours making sausage. I kinda wish I could have been there, because this is one aspect of food production I have never personally experienced…and, though it’s not terribly glamorous, it’s pretty interesting! So before I dive into this tasty Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale–which, of course, uses the sausage from the Sausage Festival–here’s a little glimpse into the process.

Apparently it all starts with pork shoulder, cut into chunks.

Then the pork goes through a grinder…


And gets mixed with a blend of spices–in this case, parsley, garlic, fennel, and red pepper flakes.

 

And finally, the part everyone knows and loves: filling the casings with the meat to make links!


Pretty floral apron optional.


As far as I’m concerned, the best part about the Sausage Festival is that we now have homemade sausage to last until Kingdom Come. The guys made both links and bulk sausage, so I was only too happy to use some of the bulk kind up in this hearty, Mediterranean-style Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash.

It all starts with yourr basic giant yellow squash, baked and scraped to get those signature squiggly strings so reminiscent of pasta. In the meantime, you’ll brown some sausage and wilt some kale in a bit of garlic-infused olive oil on the stovetop. Toss these yummy goodies–plus some sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, and cannellini beans–with the squash strings. Refill the shells, top with a sprinkle of mozzarella, and bake one more time for the finished product!


As a one-dish meal, this Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash is full of nutrients from the kale, beans, tomatoes, and squash, makes a ton, and reheats well. I think you’ll enjoy it, even if you don’t have the luxury of homemade sausage.

Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

A hearty, mostly veggie dinner with flavors of the Mediterranean. Leave off the sausage for a vegetarian version!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Servings: 6 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • 2 large spaghetti squash
  • 3/4 lb. mild sausage
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick both spaghetti squash all over with a fork and microwave each one for about a minute, to soften.
  • Slice squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Place squash halves cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes.
  • While squash bakes, prepare the rest of the filling. In a large pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned and crumbled. Remove from the pan and place on paper-towel lined plate.
  • Using the grease left behind by the sausage (or supplementing with olive oil), saute garlic and kale until kale begins to wild and garlic begins to brown. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add cannellini beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan and cook an additional minute or two. Place mixture in a large mixing bowl, along with cooked sausage.
  • When squash has finished baking, remove from oven and scrape most of their contents into the mixing bowl, leaving a small border of flesh. (Be careful, squash will be hot!) Mix squash strings, sausage, and kale mixture thoroughly.
  • Divide the mixture among the four squash halves and sprinkle with mozzarella. Place back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted and filling is warmed through. One serving equals half of a squash boat.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.