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A quick and nutritious sweet potato meal for one, with stir-fried greens and mushrooms and topped with an easy homemade piri piri sauce. Easily doubled etc. #vegetarian #healthyrecipe #quickandeasy #sweetpotato #food #easilyvegan

A quick and nutritious sweet potato meal for one, with stir-fried greens and mushrooms and topped with an easy homemade piri piri sauce. Easily doubled etc.

A quick and nutritious sweet potato meal for one, with stir-fried greens and mushrooms and topped with an easy homemade piri piri sauce. Easily doubled etc. #vegetarian #healthyrecipe #quickandeasy #sweetpotato #food #easilyveganOne of my friends recently asked me about quick, healthy dinners for one: she doesn’t live alone.

My friend, we will call her Kay, is the mum of two sweet, sweet boys whose only “flaw” is that they have yet to embrace vegetables. It’s obviously not a flaw, just a growing up thing. But it is frustrating when you are a health-aware parent and your kids are, well, kids.

Between us we have tried to get them to eat vegetables – very gently – but so far we haven’t made a whole lot of progress. We are starting to make small inroads with her eldest. He will give things an enthusiastic try, mainly to please his Mum. But his palate wants quick fuel. Teenaged boys tend to be more enthusiastic about pizza than pak choi; they are funny that way.

As a busy mum who works outside the home, she is a bit weary of preparing two different meals a night. Or just the one meal that appeals to them but plonking down a side salad for herself. Or heating something up from the supermarket chiller cabinet.

Does this sound familiar?A quick and nutritious sweet potato meal for one, with stir-fried greens and mushrooms and topped with an easy homemade piri piri sauce. Easily doubled etc. #vegetarian #healthyrecipe #quickandeasy #sweetpotato #food #easilyveganI hear that a lot at work. I see cancer patients who really want to change their and their families diets for the better but who have a difficult time getting their kids onboard. Sometimes spouses, too.

Just when they need to manage their energy some are having to make two, or even three, different meals at dinner time. My heart just sinks when I hear this. I largely encourage them to concentrate on getting more nutrients into their own diet and giving their family simple food like omelettes, pasta or even the best quality prepared food that they can afford – reading the label and recognising the ingredients as actual food.

And always offering vegetables, whether or not the family eats them. Anything left can always go into another meal for themselves.

Leading by example without making a fuss can and does give results.

Not immediately of course. But oftentimes our kids will outgrow their childish eating and gradually move towards making better food choices. It is of course more likely to happen if their school and the immediate environment makes this easier. I really like that Tesco (the largest UK supermarket) gives out free fruit to children. I know it’s not vegetables, but it is a positive message about eating “real” food.

In my experience, roasted vegetables, mashes and stir fried vegetables are the most likely to appeal to vegetable-phobes.

Roasted vegetables, especially carrots, attract kids that like sweet food. A little drizzle of maple syrup should definitely do the trick. Stir fries, that great midweek staple, draw in the kids who might like the smell (like a Chinese carry out!); the pop and sizzle; the drama of flames under a wok. If you can get them to help with age-appropriate tasks (chopping veg for the older ones; shaking on soy sauce for the younger ones) you might have even more success. And there is always a little bribery. I’m not averse to that for the occasional dinner. Just don’t bribe with sweets. πŸ™‚

Another issue that isn’t always recognised is that some of us – myself included – are funny about texture.

My food nightmares almost always centre around texture. Even writing the words trifle and jelly make my skin crawl. With vegetables it might not be the vegetable itself, but the form. If you always try and serve al dente carrots, or raw ones, try them as a mash. Roasted and then mashed is amazing. Or if you always serve them cooked, try grated as this makes them taste a little sweeter.

I could go on and on about this subject as I speak about it on an almost daily basis, but I have a page that covers it pretty well. If you have family who don’t share your love of vegetables – because I know you must love them if you read me! – read my page, “Learn to Like – Love! – Vegetables“. On it I cover the concept of super tasters, texture, previous exposures as well as practical tips and meal ideas to try with your family while still eating what you want.

Sweet potatoes can be a good place to start when trying to introduce children to vegetables. They were one of the first weaning foods for my daughter Rachel, oh, 21 years ago. Mash or lightly roasted are always good, but baked is very nice and really versatile. But it can take a bit of time. Here is my quick and dirty way to make perfect “baked” sweet potatoes. And don’t worry about the nutrients being lost: 90 per cent of Vitamin C is retained with quick cooking methods.

perfectly cooked sweet potato using one simple trick. #cookinghack #sweetpotatoPerfect “Baked” Sweet Potatoes

Microwave – Scrub a medium sized sweet potato and prick a few times with a sharp knife or a fork. Dampen a few joined sheets of paper towel and loosely wrap around the sweet potato. Microwave on High for 8-10 minutes, turning over halfway through. The time depends on your microwave’s power – start with eight minutes. The damp paper towel is crucial for getting an evenly cooked and soft sweet potato with no chewy dry ends.

Oven – If you have more time, prick the sweet potato (do more than one if possible and use the rest in other recipes) and bake in the oven – directly on the oven rack – for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the potato and how old it is (older ones take longer to cook). Lightly squeeze the potato with a cloth-covered hand; it will “give” in your hand when it is done.

The following recipe may not appeal to the vegetable shunners in your family, but maybe try them on the plain baked sweet potato and top with baked beans and cheese while you get on with the interesting stuff. πŸ™‚

A quick and nutritious sweet potato meal for one, with stir-fried greens and mushrooms and topped with an easy homemade piri piri sauce. Easily doubled etc. #vegetarian #healthyrecipe #quickandeasy #sweetpotato #food #easilyvegan

Sweet Potato with Greens, Mushrooms and Spicy Sauce

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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A quick and nutritious sweet potato meal for one, with stir-fried greens and mushrooms and topped with an easy homemade piri piri sauce. Easily doubled etc. xx

1 medium sweet potato

1 tsp olive oil + extra for extending the sauce

30-40g or so of washed and sliced greens of choice – I used chard but kale, spinach, collards, even Asian greens, would be good

50g mushrooms of choice, sliced – I use shiitake but chestnut/cremini are a great choice, too

20g goat’s cheese or goat’s curd (what I used; it’s softer and tangier) or vegan ricotta

1-2 tbsp homemade piri piri sauce or other quality hot sauce of choice. My recipe isn’t very hot so may appeal to the family.

Fresh lemon juice (this helps us to better absorb the iron from the greens, as well as tastes great)

Method

sweet potatoPrick the sweet potato 5-6 times and wrap loosely in damp paper towel. Cook on High in your microwave for 8-10 minutes. Try eight minutes first, turning over halfway through cooking. Or, bake the sweet potato in a 200C/400F oven for 35-45 minutes. If you opt for the oven do pop in a couple more to make use of the oven being on.

While the potato is cooking, heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a saute pan or wok (I use a wok) and stir fry the greens until wilted and soft. Pop them on a plate while you stir fry the mushrooms. It is important for some of us to thoroughly cook shiitake mushrooms* so I tend to do them separately, but with other mushrooms this isn’t crucial.

Mix the piri piri sauce with a little olive oil and some lemon juice.

Split the potato and spoon in the cooked vegetables and top with the cheese and sauce. Eat warm.

* some people get what is called shiitake dermatitis from raw shiitake due to the body having a hard time breaking down the polysaccharide, lentinan. It can make sufferers feel pretty itchy and weird for up to 10 days. Cooked shiitake are fine though.

RIPE FOR PINNING!

A quick and nutritious sweet potato meal for one, with stir-fried greens and mushrooms and topped with an easy homemade piri piri sauce. Easily doubled etc. #vegetarian #healthyrecipe #quickandeasy #sweetpotato #food #easilyvegan

27 thoughts on “How to Turn a Vegetable Hater into a Vegetable Lover (sort of) + An Easy Sweet Potato Supper for One

  1. Great tips and a nice simple tasty dish πŸ™‚ I never eat white potatoes any more, always sweet ones!
    I get my son to eat spinach by making spinach flatbreads, I literally add a whole bag of spinach to the dough along with some spices, works every time!

    1. That’s a stunningly simple and brilliant idea, Elaine. And so you! Thanks for sharing it πŸ™‚

      1. I hope someone else finds it useful πŸ™‚

      2. I gave you a mention in my Instagram post. I’d love for you to share this tip there too! 😊

      3. Okay, thank you so much πŸ‘πŸ» I may still have a post about it on my blog..I’ll look..

      4. Pop a link in here for you find it and I’ll put it in the post too, if that’s okay 😊😊

      5. I think I removed it to make space for a new post!! But I may still have some notes somewhere…

  2. Lovely and a great dish for the students in our family too x

    1. You’re right! Of course it is. Maybe not the chard (I’m getting mine from Waitrose until my own crops get going) but certainly using sweet potatoes a couple of veg, cheese of choice and hot sauce. That would have appealed to me as a student. Once I got tired of pizza!

  3. Colorful food, the best type of food hands down!

    1. Thanks so much! πŸ™‚

  4. Great post!

  5. Love this Kellie – the recipe and the bits about feeding fussy eaters πŸ™‚ Can I share with the parents at my kids’ cooking classes as I know they will love it and it’s very much in tune with the philosophy of what we do at class? x

    1. Of course, Nicole! I’m glad you think this might be useful. Please do see the page I linked to as that really goes intoa lot of depth and loads of tips and recipe ideas. Thanks for taking the time to comment. And that’s awesome about the cooking classes for kids. We need more of them!

  6. Katie @ Whole Nourishment says:

    Kellie, I love that you say “it might not be the vegetable itself, but the form.” So true as is all your points on helping families eat better and easier. I come across very similar issues with my own clients. And find roasting vegetables as the number one strategy to get my client’s kids on board. And a beautiful salad here — love all the smart flavor and textural contrasts.

    1. Thank you, Katie. What are your best tips other than roasting the vegetables to get clients or their families to try vegetables?

  7. You have certainly turned a vegetable hater into a vegetable celebrator in this post Kellie! (:

    1. I love the word “celebrator”. I need to nick that one! And thank you πŸ™‚

  8. Annie says:

    Thank you so much for delivering me from chicken! Was able to feed the reluctant teen his usual chicken tonight (he doesn’t object to vegetables as such, just sees no joy in them) while I had this delicious tasty plateful. As usual didn’t have quite the right ingredients so had rocket for spinach and mozzarella for goats cheese but it was still delicious. It was such a thrill and just so good to be liberated!

    1. πŸ™‚ Thank for your kind comment, Annie. This recipe is really just a jumping off point so I am super pleased that you adapted to your own fridge contents. I probably didn’t even need to use measurements. Btw, what kind of hot sauce did you use? I have added seeds too and that’s nice for texture and healthy fats.

  9. superfitbabe says:

    Vegetable hater was my middle name as a child. Now, I can smash in pounds of veggies every day, mostly in spinach, sweet potatoes, eggplant, squash, onions, pumpkin, cauliflower, and so much more. This sweet potato dinner looks glorious! I would love to make it for someone!

    1. Really!? I would have never guessed. What changed your mind? I’d love to know!

  10. Katie Trant says:

    Love this, Kellie. You know I’m a big fan of the single lady supper, and always keen to find new ways to introduce vegetables to skeptics. We’ve been lucky with our boy, sort of, in that when he’s in the mood to eat he’ll eat pretty much whatever you put in front of him. If he’s not in the mood to eat, though, he’s not going to eat a crumb. I try not to let it bother me and figure he’s self regulating at this point. Time will tell whether he’s an adventurous eater or not!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Katie. I talk about this self-regulating feature that children have to some of my groups, and how we really need to try and re-discover it. It happens naturally during chemo for most people and I encourage folk to see this as a positive thing that we can hang on to after recovery from treatment.I try really hard to tap into this but it is hard when environmental cues and just plan old habit get in the way.

  11. THK says:

    Beautiful pictures and love the article! My little used to LOVE sweet potatoes but lately he’s been turning away from them. I might have to try the easy bean trick first!

  12. wow it’s delicous

  13. You are doing a great job…our food intake contributes and controls our lives on daily basis. Your blogging is timely.

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