Side Dishes

pineapple sweet potatoesJamaicaway is a Caribbean style restaurant in Nashville that is one of my very favorite restaurants. They have an extensive vegetarian and vegan selection in addition to omnivore items and it's just like the traditional soul food I'm used to from Memphis but with a twist. My favorite entree is the vegan fried "chicken" which is made from vital wheat gluten. I order it with a side of fried plantains and pineapple sweet potatoes. I almost never order anything else.

This year, we were hosting Christmas dinner at our house and instead of traditional sweet potato casserole, I decided to try my version of the pineapple sweet potatoes. I roasted the sweet potatoes and pineapple instead of steaming them, so the texture is different (definitely drier, but also not stringy) but it is still really good. I was cooking for five, so this recipe was made with three large sweet potatoes, but it can easily be adjusted down for a smaller crowd. One large sweet potato will yield 2-3 servings (judging by the leftovers, it was more like three for mine).

Notes: I used butter, but you can easily make it vegan by substituting coconut oil (which I wish I'd done anyway; I think it would taste better). It takes a while to cook, but you can cut the time in half by microwaving the sweet potatoes for about 5 minutes before adding them to the recipe (you can also make this a day in advance and re-heat; I did this and transferred to a prettier dish to serve). Reduce the size of the recipe by estimating one large sweet potato for every two people and reducing the amount of pineapple accordingly.

Pineapple Sweet Potatoes
serves 6

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
1 16 oz can of chunk pineapple
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp butter (1/2 a stick), cut into 8 slices

Place the sweet potatoes and pineapple in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add the spices, salt, and sugar and stir together. Place the slices of butter evenly over the mixture and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes covered and then 45 minutes uncovered (until the sweet potatoes are soft).


I've been thinking about stuffing a pumpkin for a while. Specifically, I was looking for a recipe where I could just cram some uncooked wild rice or quinoa in a pumpkin and have a meal after a couple of hours. I didn't find that, but I did find a simple recipe that's extremely customizable that was originally from Dorie Greenspan. It's a perfect vegetarian main dish or side dish for fall or Thanksgiving dinners. It's really easy, too. The short version is: get a pumpkin, remove the guts, stuff it with cheese and bread, and cook it for two hours. But the longer version may be a bit more helpful.

And please excuse my photos. I snapped these as I was cooking and serving, not sure how it would turn out and not up for a photo sesh. But they give you a good idea of sizing and doneness. I placed my pumpkin in a 7 qt Dutch oven.

All done! I forgot to remove the lid to brown the stuffing and it still tasted great.
All done! I forgot to remove the lid to brown the stuffing and it still tasted great.

Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkin
serves 4-6
adapted from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan via PBS

  • 1 medium "pie" or "sugar" pumpkin, about 3 pounds (about the size of a basketball)
  • Smoked salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups stale or refrigerated bread cubes (½-inch)
  • 8 - 12 ounces cheese, such as Gouda, Havarti, Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2–4 chopped garlic cloves (to taste) or 1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • About ¼ cup snipped fresh chives OR
  • 1 tablespoon of Wash Park seasoning blend from Savory Spice Shop
  • About ⅓ cup heavy cream or milk

Place the oven rack on the lower middle or lower setting and pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Scrub the outside of the pumpkin to clean. Then cut a hole in the top large enough to clean out and stuff the pumpkin, making sure to cut at a 45 degree angle so that the resulting lid will rest on top (like a jack-o-lantern). Scoop out the seeds and strings and remove them from the lid as well. Discard or keep the seeds for roasting later. Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the pumpkin (and around the edges) to taste.

Combine the bread, cheese, garlic, and seasoning in a large bowl and toss together to mix. Place the stuffing in the pumpkin and pour the cream or milk on top to moisten.

Pumpkin ready for roasting. Note how the top was cut at an angle to keep the lid secure.
Pumpkin ready for roasting. Note how the top was cut at an angle to keep the lid secure.

Place the lid on top and put the pumpkin in a large oven-proof casserole or Dutch oven or on a large baking sheet (contents may bubble over or pumpkin may lose shape). Cook for two hours or until the stuffing is bubbling (check after 90 minutes for doneness). Remove the lid for the last 15 minutes or so to brown the stuffing, if desired. The pumpkin is ready when the skin can be easily pierced with a fork.

To serve, scoop contents and cut portions of the side of the pumpkin.

Notes: I used Gouda and Havarti, which tasted great. A Gruyère or Emmenthal would have made a creamier filling, though (think fondue). For a heartier meal, reduce the salt and seasoning and add veggie sausage. I served mine topped with arugula and with a side of rice pilaf (with golden raisins and walnuts).


Now that my kitchen is functional (and I’m getting deliveries from Green Bean Delivery every other week), I’ve been busy in the kitchen. I have several great recipes with mediocre photos to share, but I thought I’d do a round-up of others’ recipes I’ve either made or tasted recently and really liked.

romanescoRoasted Romanesco. The romanesco is a broccoli/cauliflower hybrid that is milder and tastier than either of the two. I got one in a Green Bean Delivery box and cooked it up using this simple recipe from The Kitchen Snob and it was great! This is a particularly good recipe to try when having guests since the vegetable looks so great on a plate. And they were definitely better than roasted cauliflower steaks. I just can’t seem to roast them at home so they taste like the cauliflower at Etch.

Baguettes. During the recent snow/ice storms, we were stuck in our house for nearly a week. Our driveway was covered in a thick sheet of ice. The steepness was great for sledding, but not so much for getting out without possibly careening into a tree. So I decided to make some bread in anticipation of actually running out! My friend, Amy at Fearless Homemaker has made these baguettes often and loves them.

Eh, I didn’t love them. But it’s not the fault of the recipe. Somehow (perhaps the arid conditions in our house because of the heat being on all the time), the dough was too dry, so we had to add water. I also had trouble mixing the dough initially (almost burned up my mixer’s motor). My husband swears he did not measure inaccurately, but anyway, the result was a bread with overworked dough that resulted in a tight crumb (like sandwich bread). So I wasn’t blown away. But if made properly, I can see how this bread would be really great. It’s a huge recipe, though (makes four loaves), so keep that in mind.

Freekeh with Brussels Sprouts, Apples, Cranberries, Cherries and Pecans. This is the dish that Beth of Eat. Drink. Smile. brought to our Nashville Foodbloggers post-holiday potluck. I loved this dish. I’ve got to skeedaddilydoo over to the store and get some freekeh, though. I’ve never had it before and certainly never bought it. But it is fantastic. Plus, I’m always up for a new way to use Brussels sprouts.

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Empanadas. My favorite dish from the foodblogger potluck was Tracey of Single Grrl in the Kitchen’s empanadas. Oh, man, these things were good. I snagged several to take home afterward, too.

Also at our potluck, Angela of Spinach Tiger brought some of her famous biscuits as well as this triple layer chocolate fudge cake and Phillip of Southern Fatty brought these delicious ginger beer cupcakes.

I’ve also made a really great Brussels sprouts salad (several times), some fantastic waffles, and a “cookie salad” (my contribution to the foodblogger potluck). Those are the recipes I plan to post soon (I hope).