I have a random memory of a bitterly cold day last winter. I was standing in front of the washing machine, folding laundry. It was such a simple task, yet I was completely exhausted. Folding one more shirt or matching one more pair of socks seemed just plain impossible.
As I slumped over my pile, I reminded myself that it had been a particularly brutal winter. Perhaps I was Vitamin D deficient. I was covering all the usual bases by myself as my husband was on the road week after week for work. In the months prior, my older son had been be catching all sorts of viruses, and I was likely fighting some of the same germs. I made a mental note to get more sleep.
In another week’s time, my son became sick again. It suddenly occurred to me that there might be a bigger reason for his all-too-frequent illnesses. Could he have mono? Our pediatrician was skeptical, speculating that his recurrent bugs were the result of a new school with a bigger germ pool. But just in case, she ran a mono test. When the result came back positive, it was almost a relief–and a light bulb went off in my head.
“I think I have mono, too!”, I said. Suddenly, it was crystal clear. This was the reason I was so darn exhausted. Our much-loved doctor laughed and expressed surprise that I’d made it through college without having had mono. To rule it out—and perhaps to humor me–she ran the test. When the results came back positive, I felt somewhat vindicated. All the malaise was not just in my head!
Cooking, of course, is one of the last things anyone wants to do when feeling downright drained. Though I have lots of recipes for quick dinners, the following meal was one that I returned to again and again during those weary months. The combination of hearty, healthy and easy made it a go-to meal. And it just tasted so good. My kids were troopers to eat it as much as they did.
After a well-deserved hiatus, I recently made this meal again and couldn’t help but associate it with our crazy, run-down winter last year. Thankfully, there is no reason whatsoever to save this for the times you feel subpar. The Tex-Mex flavors offer a spin on the usual potato offering, and the combination of beans, sausage, and vegetables creates a satisfying all-in-one meal.
I like to keep one or two links of sausage, separately wrapped, in my freezer for times when I haven’t planned ahead. A link doesn’t take long to thaw and can even be cooked from a partially frozen state. With the exception of a few of the optional toppings, the remaining ingredients are all pantry basics.
Our preferred toppings include salsa and Greek yogurt (or sour cream), and if I have some on hand, chopped cilantro and avocado. Think of these potatoes as you would a taco or a burger, and top as you please.
Though my younger son typically doesn’t care for sweet potatoes or black beans, the salsa seems to work magic for him. As long as he has an extra big dollop, he willingly devours this meal. Of course, a Russet or Yukon Gold potato may be substituted. But the taco-like flavors and the small amount of sausage add something special…and might just make a sweet potato lover out of the toughest critic!
Yields 4 servings.
- 4 sweet potatoes (may substitute Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 4 ounces turkey sausage, casings removed (may use pork sausage)
- 1/2 a medium red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (enough to lightly coat the bottom of your skillet)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese blend
- 1/2 cup mild or spicy salsa
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Optional toppings: Chopped cilantro, sliced green onions, sliced black olives, chopped avocado
Poke holes in the potatoes with a fork, and cook on your microwave’s potato setting until the potatoes are soft and cooked through (approximately 8-10 minutes on high for 4 potatoes). Alternatively, you may bake at 400 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until tender. (May take longer if potatoes are very large.)
Heat the olive oil in a medium to large size skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking it up as you go.
Stir in the chili powder, cumin, and salt, and cook for 30 seconds more or until fragrant. Add the black beans, stir to combine, and continue to cook a minute or two more or until the mixture is heated through.
Slice the potato down the middle (lengthwise), and use a fork to gently loosen and mash the insides. (Gently push in from each end to open the potato wider in the middle. For added creaminess, I sometimes mash a tablespoon or two of Greek yogurt or sour cream into the flesh before stuffing.) Top with one quarter of the black bean mixture, 2 tablespoons each shredded cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, and salsa. Add optional toppings of choice and enjoy!
- There is enough filling to make a complete meal out of four large potatoes. If smaller portions are desired, distribute the black bean mixture over six smaller potatoes. Feel free to use the measurements for cheese, salsa, and Greek yogurt or sour cream as a guide, adding more or less according to preference. Any leftovers are delightful reheated for lunch or dinner another day.
Another easy stuffed potato meal you may enjoy… Baked Egg in a Potato