Sweet Spuds and Pumpkins


I often walk in the early mornings on the beach with my dog. And as you might imagine, there is a crew of regulars at that hour. Dogs and humans. Camaraderie runs high. One of my best beach buddies is chef Leslie Myers, a serious triathlete and owner of Food Sense Now, a nutrition and food company, in San Diego. For Leslie and I, the morning walk is often accompanied by brainstorming and swapping food stories.

And this morning was no exception, as the talk ran to seasonal favorites sweet potatoes and pumpkins.

Although I've always loved baked and stuffed white spuds, I have to admit that even when I load them up with light sour cream and scallions or chives fresh from the garden, they aren't the most nutrient-rich items on my table. But the sweet potato is another story. Like the white potato, the sweet potato is high in fiber (especially if you eat the skin), fairly low in calories, and, unlike the russet, the sweet potato is loaded with betacarotene. Furthermore, I think you are less likely to want to stuff a sweet potato with a mountain of cheddar cheese and gobs of sour cream.

Here's a seasonal vegan idea for stuffing a baked sweet potato:

Quickly saute tiny, young Brussels sprouts (operative words being "tiny" and "young," as the older they become, the stronger their flavor and the tougher the sprouts) cut in quarters with finely shredded kale or chard. Then add in some toasted walnuts; and if you like a touch of added sweet, dried currants, cranberries, or even cherries.

You could go also Asian by quickly sauteing the sprouts and kale in a dash of toasted sesame seed oil and sprinkling with a bit of low sodium soy sauce.

Or, to celebrate the season, quickly saute the veggies, nuts, and dried fruit in a tablespoon or two of walnut oil, then sprinkle with cinnamon or a pumpkin pie spice blend and a dash of salt.

Leslie offers this suggestion for one of her favorites fall treats: a healthy, innovative, pumpkin smoothie.

¾ cup canned organic pumpkin (or freshly baked organic pumpkin or sweet potato)

4 ounces any kind of "milk" (cow, coconut, almond or whatever)

½ ripe banana

6 ice cubes

pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons maple syrup, agave nectar or raw honey

½-1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Leslie says she sometimes adds a tablespoon of flax seeds for extra nutrients and fiber. And I think I might enjoy toasted pumpkin seeds blended in!