01 January 2013

Baked Sweet Potato Nachos

Goodbye 2012...hello 2013!  I hope you all had a very lovely New Year's celebration, filled with plenty of festivities and food.  Ours consisted of pomosas, Hot & Skinny Spinach Dip, pizza rolls, enough dip feed an army and (of course) nachos.  Nothing rings in a new year like a few extra calories, right?  But now it is time to start shedding all the holiday weight packed on by buttery carbohydrates. It's difficult to get back into healthy eating habits, but this unique nacho-hybrid helps to ease the transition from decadent indulgence to balanced cooking.  And it's one of my personal favorites.

Classic nachos are one of those party foods that disappear at an alarming rate to those who are last in line at the snack table (suckers!).  Why?  Everyone loves nachos, and with very good cause.  Crunchy chips covered with melty cheese, meat and beans, ready to be topped with guacamole, salsa and sour cream?  Nobody can say no to that.  But once I started making homemade sweet potato chips, I've never been able to enjoy a tortilla chip in the same way.  I love this easy microwave-cooking recipe from Our Best Bites, and make them frequently with various season combinations (garlic power, salt and cumin is one of my favorites).  Crunchy, slightly sweet and incredibly healthy, these low-glycemic tubers are perfect for a health-conscious chip lover.  No greasy frying here, folks.

After falling in love with these chips, I knew I would have to try them out in nachos.  Really, why not top one of my favorite things with a bunch of my other favorite things?  Sharp cheddar cheese, black beans, roasted jalapeno and avocado...delightful.  But my favorite little nacho tweak in this recipe was swapping in dried cranberries for tomatoes.  Their sweet, fruity flavor with its subtle tartness added an awesome element, and perfectly complimented the flavor of the sweet potato chips.  Their chewy texture was a fun bouns, too.  

The hubs was delighted with this dish.  He thought they were delicious, but for people who like unique dishes and unusual flavors (a.k.a. - us).  And I completely agree.  This recipe is a pairing of some rather dichotomous flavor profiles - savory, spicy and sweet.  Personally, I had never before eaten jalapenos with dried cranberries or sweet potatoes with sharp white cheddar.  But sometimes when you gamble, you win big.  These healthy, hearty nachos will fill you up without filling you out.

A quick side note - the roasted jalapeno adds terrific flavor, but also quite the kick.  If you aren't a big fan of spicy food, you may want to half the amount of jalapeno or omit it completely.  But if you embrace heat like we do, definitely give it a shot!

Baked Sweet Potato Nachos (serves 2-3 for dinner or several as a snack)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (the more uniform in size, the better)
  • 1 c sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 c dried cranberries
  • 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
To roast your jalapeno under a broiler, preheat to high and position a rack on the top notch in your oven.  Place the jalapeno on a baking sheet and slide under the broiler.  Roast, turning every 2-3 minutes, until the skin is charred on all sides.  (You can also roast over the flame from a gas burner).  Place the charred jalapeno in a paper bag to cool for 5 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board.  Remove the stem, then cut open and remove the seeds and membrane.  You may need to wear gloves if you have sensitive skin.  Finely dice the pepper flesh and set aside.

Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice the sweet potatoes into rounds 1/8 of an inch thick.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to the size of the glass plate in your microwave.  Spread a layer of chips over the parchment paper, then spray lightly with non-stick before sprinkling with a pinch of salt.  Microwave on 60% power until chips are curing around the edges and lightly browned in the middle, which was about 14 minutes in my microwave.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  They will crisp as they cool.  (More details can be found on the Our Best Bites recipe page.)

While chips are cooking, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.  While the oven is heating, shred the cheese, rise the black beans and slice the avocado.

Place the cooled chips on the lined baking sheet in a thin, even layer to ensure even distribution of toppings.  Sprinkle with cheese, black beans, dried cranberries and diced jalapeno (if desired).  Place the baking sheet in the heated oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and beans are hot.  Remove from the oven to a heat-safe surface.  With a plastic or metal spatula, remove the chips to a large plate.  Garnish with avocado and serve hot.  Fabulous for dinner with a side of roast pork and a simple salad.  

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