Warm Fonio Salad & Sweet Potato Bowl with Curried Pecan Sauce

Warm Fonio Salad & Sweet Potato Bowl with Curried Pecan Sauce

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When the kind people at Yolélé Foods reached out to me about trying fonio several months ago, I was confused at first (“What the heck is fonio?”) but also super intrigued. Simply put, fonio is an easily digestible and gluten-free African supergrain that is packed with amino acids, protein, fiber and iron. This company is also doing a lot to help communities in rural West Africa, which I encourage you to read all about on their website.

Note: This post is not sponsored in any way. I am providing a genuine review of a product that I want to share with you.

I posted a dish a while back on my Instagram feed using fonio, but since I still had some leftover, I wanted to do a bit more. I had a dish like this in my mind, and the fonio was the perfect base. You could substitute couscous or quinoa here if you can’t find fonio, but I’d definitely give fonio a try if you’re curious!

I’m a big fan of quinoa, but after trying out fonio, I will definitely consider keeping it in rotation. It has a very fine texture and almost melts in your mouth (especially when combined with a sauce), which is very enjoyable. My favorite part is how quickly it cooks up. In just under five minutes, I was surprised by how much those little grains that looked like sea salt before cooking ended up getting so fluffy.

The recipe below will serve 3-4. My husband and I had this for dinner, and we each took some for lunch the next day too. Score.

Ingredients:
Sweet Potato Rounds:
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil or coconut oil (optional, sub veggie broth for oil free)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Warm Fonio & Legume Salad:
  • 1 cup cooked fonio*
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable broth OR 1 tbsp avocado or other oil for sauteing onions
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup cooked chickpeas (I used canned)
  • 1/4 cup cooked green peas**
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Handful of diced green onions
  • Pinch of salt
Curried Pecan Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup of raw pecans
  • 1 tbsp of a good quality curry powder
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup or coconut nectar
  • 1 cup very hot, just boiled water
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F .
  2. Wash sweet potatoes and slice into coins that are about 1/2 inch thick. Keep the skins on the potatoes.
  3. Spread sweet potato rounds over nonstick baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Feel free to lightly spray or coat with avocado or coconut oil if you prefer your sweet potatoes to be a bit more caramelized. However, oil is not needed if you are trying to cut out oil.
  4. Pop sweet potatoes into the oven. They will need to bake for about 35-40 minutes total, turning once halfway.
  5. While sweet potatoes are baking,  prepare the fonio per directions. To cook, you simply add the fonio to boiling water, cover, and remove from heat. It will be ready to fluff with a fork after 5 minutes, so be sure to set a timer to check it right away. TIP: Cooking fonio in a wider saucepan is recommended since the extra space will allow it to fluff up more.
  6. Heat a pan over medium heat, add vegetable broth (or oil if you prefer) and toss in minced garlic and chopped onions. Saute for a few minutes until onions are soft, taking care not to burn the garlic. Remove from heat once the onions start to brown.
  7. Combine the fonio, grilled onions, chickpeas, green peas, chopped cilantro, scallions and salt in a bowl and combine well.
  8. By this point, 20 minutes have likely passed, so you’ll want to turn your sweet potatoes if you haven’t already.
  9. Create the pecan sauce by bringing a couple cups of water to a boil. Add minced garlic clove, 1/2 cup of raw pecans, 1 tbsp of curry powder, juice from half a lemon, 1 tbsp of maple syrup and pinch of salt to a high-speed blender or high-quality food processor. Once water boils, allow it to stop boiling then add 1 cup very hot water to a high-speed blender (I used my Vitamix) and blend all ingredients until very creamy. Scrape sides as you go and keep going until it’s super creamy, usually 3-4 minutes.
  10. Transfer fonio salad to a bowl, add on sweet potato rounds and pecan sauce, and ENJOY!
*Can substitute quinoa or couscous for fonio if you still want to try this recipe without fonio. Quinoa will need a tad more time to cook, maybe 12-15 minutes, and I recommend cooking your quinoa in vegetable broth instead of water to get some extra flavor in there.
**Can substitute shelled edamame for green peas. If using frozen green peas, covering them with boiling water and allowing them to sit for a few minutes is an easy way to prepare them.
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Savory Stuffed Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Savory Stuffed Japanese Sweet Potatoes

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If you are looking for a super satisfying, nutritious and comforting meal, then might I suggest a Japanese sweet potato stuffed with all the beans? Sure, you can use a regular sweet potato, but there is something about a Japanese sweet potato with these exact fillings that is just so incredible.

If you have never had a Japanese sweet potato, then I highly recommend you try them. They are, by far, my very favorite food (yes, even more than figs!). I love them because when you bake them whole, the texture of the inside is just so smooth and creamy and has a mild, yet slightly sweet taste to it. Yet when you cut them up and bake them, they come out nice and firm, which is just perfect for making sweet potato fries. They honestly can’t be beat in my book. And no, these are not the same as white sweet potatoes or purple sweet potatoes — Japanese sweet potatoes are their own special variety.

This recipe serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large Japanese sweet potatoes
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 can or 6 oz. container of vegan baked beans (I used Pacific brand)
  • 2 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • handful of arugula
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsps hemp seeds, optional

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Wash sweet potatoes, keeping the skin on. Pat dry and pierce with a fork around the sides. Place on a baking tray and bake for about 45 minutes, or more if needed, until insides are soft.
  3. While potatoes are baking, drain chickpeas and place in a bowl. Coat the chickpeas with the sriracha, maple syrup and garlic powder. Add to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and set aside to cool.
  5. Lower oven temperature to 375°F and place chickpeas in the oven. Roast chickpeas for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout. Feel free to add more sriracha and/or maple syrup if you would like.
  6. Heat vegan baked beans either on the stove or in the microwave and set aside.
  7. Once the chickpeas are done roasting, remove them from the oven. Slice open the sweet potatoes and fill one with the roasted chickpeas (feel free to add more sriracha as I did in the photo) and the other with baked beans. Top with freshly-ground black pepper, salt and hemp seeds if desired.
  8. Enjoy!
Lentil & Mushroom “Meat”balls

Lentil & Mushroom “Meat”balls

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Who says a vegan can’t have homemade spaghetti and meatballs? These no-meat balls are definitely being added to my list of staple dishes because they were so delicious, but also because my husband said he hoped they would be making an appearance often.  That’s the kind of feedback I love to hear.

They were also super easy to make, which is definitely my style. I can’t wait to experiment more with different seasoning options. I’m also picturing a delicious “meat”ball sub in my near future.

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Just looking at the closeup shot, I personally can’t tell them apart from a typical meatball. Sure, it’s been many years since I’ve eaten a real meatball, but I still remember what they  look like. Of course, the taste of my “meat”balls isn’t the same, but I think they are actually better. They are vegan, gluten-free, oil-free and completely delicious.

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I served my “meat”balls very simply over Banza chickpea pasta with marinara sauce and some oregano and pepper to top it off. If you give these a try, let me know how they go. I am definitely hooked! Just remember to make them somewhat small, about the size of a golf ball, per the notes below. I made a couple of them larger and the texture wasn’t as good on the large ones.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz / 1 standard package of sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
  • 1 cup cooked brown lentils
  • 1/2 cup of gluten-free bread crumbs (can substitute rolled oats)
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp avocado oil (or olive oil if you prefer), OR a 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable broth for sauteing if you prefer an oil-free option
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp milled flax mixed with 3 tbsp water)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp Tamari
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley (feel free to add more or use dried)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat your oil or vegetable broth in a pan over medium heat, and add the onions. Saute for two minutes then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, until onions are translucent and start to caramelize a bit. Take care not to burn the garlic, and if you are using vegetable broth instead of oil, feel free to add more as needed.
  2. Add mushrooms and Tamari to the pan with the onions and cook everything together for about 5-8 minutes, or until the mushrooms are softened.
  3. Turn off heat and transfer the contents of the pan to a large bowl to cool down for a few minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F / 200 °C and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  5. In a food processor, add in the lentils, spices, flax egg, bread crumbs (or oats) and mushroom/onion mix once it has cooled a bit. Blend all ingredients together until you reach your desired consistency. I liked mine to be mostly smooth but still with some texture.
  6. Spoon out the mixture and roll them into little balls, placing them on the parchment. I would recommend creating about 15 little balls that are about the size of a golf ball. If you make fewer balls, they will likely be a bit too large and will lose some of their shape and be too soft in the middle. These definitely work out nicely when they are a tad smaller.
  7. Place the balls in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, turning once throughout.
  8. Remove from oven and toss them on your pasta, or make yourself a delicious “meat”ball sub! I made a simple dish using Banza spaghetti and marinara sauce.
  9. Enjoy!