Braised Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans

But how do you get enough protein? 

This is one of the most common questions I get asked as a vegetarian. (Also right up there is "do you eat fish?")

I live in a meat and potato centric area of the country - especially this time of year. Most people consume way more protein than they need in a day. Getting enough protein for me has never been an issue. Iron can be a little trickier (eat your green leafy veggies!), but protein I've never worried about. Here's why:

Protein comes from all sorts of other sources than meat, and many of the other sources are better for you because they are lower in saturated fat, lower in cholesterol, and lower in calories than the meat sources (with the exception of lean fish). 

Of course beans, nuts, and seeds are obvious sources of protein. Plus when paired with a grain like rice or wheat it becomes a complete protein, or a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. This isn't hard to do since most bean, nuts, and seeds are naturally served with those complementary foods. Plus, new research now supports that you don't even need to eat the rice and beans at the same meal to reap the complete protein benefits. Bonus!

Homemade hummus is a great protein source and perfect for a quick meal.

Other unsuspecting sources of complete protein come from quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, hemp, and soy to name a few. These awesome foods support all sorts of other great health benefits besides being a great vegetarian source of protein. 

Protein becomes something that provides comfort to us during these cold winter days, which is probably why I've been eating a huge amount of beans lately. It all started with Crescent Dragonwagon's cookbook Bean by Bean (which is frickin' fantastic and available at my public library!). I've been trying to get into cooking dried beans more often despite the convenience of the canned bean. Dried beans are significantly lower in sodium and are much cheaper and tastier. All good things.

I've been soaking the beans over night and when I get up in the morning, I cook them while I'm getting ready for the day. They need to cook in general about 60-90 minutes. When they are done, I put one cup of beans in each of my glass jars (which are typically reused salsa jars), add some liquid, and pop the jars in my freezer. I now have beans ready to go and almost as convenient as my canned beans. 

From Kidney Bean Casserole with Red Wine, Mushrooms, and Smoky Tempeh to Socca (Chickpea flour pancake) to Simple Stir Fry to Cornbread, all of the recipes from Bean by Bean have been winners so far.

Despite all the awesome fun I've been having with Bean by Bean recipes, I ended up playing around and falling in love with this sweet potato and black bean recipe. It's fairly simple, contains adobo sauce from chipotle peppers - my new love (if you missed it, check out why I love this ingredient), and is quite healthful. A perfect beginning for an new year. 

Braised Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans
4 servings, 25 minutes

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1.5 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers
salt to taste
sour cream and lime wedges for garnish
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute or until lightly brown and fragrant. Add the beans, sweet potatoes, and cumin. Stir well to combine and let cook for another minute.
  2. Mix the adobo sauce with the vegetable broth and pour over the sweet potato mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover (tin foil works well if your skillet doesn't have a cover). Cook until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of your sweet potato chunks.
  3. Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium-high and cook off any remaining liquid. 
  4. Season with salt to taste (if you are using canned beans you will need significantly less salt than if you cooked your dried beans yourself). Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a squeeze of lime. 

Nutritional facts per serving: 419 calories; 5.2g fat; 3mg cholesterol; 860mg sodium; 79.8g carbohydrates (14.6g dietary fiber); 15g protein.

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