Category Archives: Vegan

Baked Polenta with Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash

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Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  This dish is a spin on Mark Bittman’s Polenta with Garlicky Mushrooms.  The recipe this week was chosen by Sandra at Meadows Cooks.  She made her polenta cakes in the shape of hearts–adorable!  I made mine without any wine (subbed Sherry Vinegar) and added some roasted delicata squash for a heartier dish.  I also made this dish a second time, adding heavy whipping cream and a little cream cheese to the mushrooms.  And while it wasn’t nearly as healthy, boy was it good!

Polenta is such a versatile food–if you haven’t made it before, I highly recommending giving it a try.  It tastes good topped with any number of foods.  You can do a cream sauce, a marinara with cheese and veggies or meat, a nice eggplant sauce, a chickpea curry, pesto…the possibilities go on and on!  Polenta is basically just cornmeal cooked up, pressed into a pan and chilled, and then cut into shapes and pan-fried or baked.  Let me know if you end up making this dish or a variation–I would love to hear from you!

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Polenta Cakes with Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash;

Makes: 4 to 8 servings;  Time: 3 hours, mostly unattended

  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal
  • Salt
  • ½ cup 2% milk (or use water)
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound mushrooms, preferably an assortment, sliced (I used baby bella mushrooms this time)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, or more to taste
  • 1 delicata squash, seeded and sliced
  1. Put the cornmeal and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 2 and ½ cups water and the milk to make a lump-free slurry. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want the consistency to be like thick oatmeal. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper.
  2. Grease a large baking sheet with some of the oil while the polenta is still hot, pour it onto the sheet and use a spatula to spread it out evenly at least ½ inch thick. Brush the top lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the polenta until it sets up, about 2 hours (or up to a day).
  3. Heat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly spray or drizzle a baking pan with olive oil and lay squash onto the baking sheet, taking care not to overlap. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and roast, about 20-30 minutes, flipping each piece halfway through.
  4. Lower the heat in the oven to 375°F. Grease a clean large baking sheet with some of the oil. When the polenta is set, cut it into at least 12 squares or diamonds or use a round cookie cutter to make disks. Put the cakes on the baking sheet, brush with a bit more oil, and bake until they are warmed through and the edges begin to brown (the outside should be nice and toasted while the inside should stay soft), 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, put the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the mushrooms and thyme and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and dried out a bit, about 10 minutes. Add the Sherry Vinegar and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes; turn the heat to medium-low and add the garlic.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve a spoonful of mushrooms and a few pieces of squash on top of each polenta cake.  I served mine on a bed of mizuna–love mizuna!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Spinach and Baked Hoisin Tofu

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Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  This week’s recipe was Sesame Noodles with Spinach and Salmon, chosen by Sara from Pidges Pantry.  Check out everyone’s variations on the dish here.  So far I’ve seen posts starting with this simple noodle dish and changing things up with crab, sea bass, kale, green beans, lamb, ahi, and fried tofu.  Wow!

Whatever variation you choose, this noodle dish is a perfect weeknight supper or quick lunch.  Add more spinach than noodles and you have a perfectly satisfying and very healthy dish.  The sweet soy-garlic-ginger sauce will be a hit with any diner at your table.

My version uses baked hoisin-glazed tofu and adds ginger and agave nectar.  I love the chewy texture of baked tofu and I wanted to make some for a friend of mine who is not eating meat this month to show her how satisfying baked tofu could be.  This was the perfect opportunity!  I promised to take photos to illustrate the process so here goes…!

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First, I press the tofu for a while to get some of the liquid out.  This is an especially important step when you are frying tofu but I do it for baked tofu anyway to speed up the baking time.  To press tofu, wrap the tofu in a clean towel (I use flour sack towels but any clean towel or paper towel will do) and place a small plate on top for 1/2 hour or longer to press.  Make sure the plate isn’t too heavy or else it can smush and crack the tofu.

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Once the tofu is pressed, unwrap and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Place on an oiled baking sheet and brush with a marinade or hoisin sauce.

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Bake at 300 degrees for 1/2 hour.  The result is toothy and satisfying:  smooth on the inside and crispy on the outside with a dense texture.  It is my favorite way to eat tofu!

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The noodle dish is so simple.  Just cook the noodles while quickly sauteing the garlic, ginger, and spinach in a wok.  Add the noodles, toss in soy sauce and agave, top with the tofu and you have a meal to the table in 1/2 hour.

As I always like to remind you, feel free to change things up if you would like!  This dish would also taste good with cabbage, green beans, zucchini, snap peas, or snow peas.  I added a few cubes of sweet potato to one of my plates of noodles.  Enjoy!

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Sesame Soba Noodles with Spinach and Baked Hoisin Tofu

Makes 4 servings; Time: 30 minutes

  • 1 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
  • 8 ounces firm block tofu
  • 3 tablespoons store-bought Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 and ½ pounds spinach, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar (or sugar)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 8 ounces buckwheat (soba) noodles
  1. Drain the tofu and wrap it in a clean towel.  Place a small plate on it and let sit for a half hour to extract some of the liquid.
  2. Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly oil a baking pan.
  3. Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. and place on baking pan.  Brush with hoisin sauce on both sides and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet on medium. Add the garlic, ginger, and sesame seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to soften and the sesame seeds turn golden, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for another minute or 2. Add the soy sauce, agave, sesame oil, and a splash of water and cook until the spinach is wilted, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  6. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until they’re tender but not mushy (start tasting after 5 minutes), then drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Turn the heat under the spinach mixture to medium and add the noodles. Toss, adding enough reserved liquid to keep things moist. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately or at room temperature with tofu laid on top and some sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

“Hippie Rice” With Beet Greens, Currants, and Seeds

Hippie Rice:  With Beet Greens, Currants, Sunflower Seeds, and Orange Zest

Welcome to my first post of 2013!  It’s been a busy, busy (yet wonderful) few weeks but as much as I hate to admit it I’m kind of happy to be getting back into my old routines.  I am even somewhat relieved that the holidays have passed and I can look forward to catching up on my “honey do list” including actually organizing my office closet, sewing the linen pillow covers that have been cut and ready for the machine for months, organizing the photo folders on my computer, and other riveting grown-up extra-curriculars (when I feel as good now when my house is clean as I did when I was a kid and I got an elephant ear at the fair, I wonder if I grew up and somehow found myself in some twisted opposite-world).

This post is also the first Food Matters Project post for 2013.  This week, Gracie chose the recipe, “Hippie Rice,” and how fitting it is considering all of the “diets” I’m sure we are thinking about or actually following through on.  It is a good reminder from Bittman that “we are what we eat” and that feeling better (emotionally and physically) and looking better starts with eating better.

My goal this year is to eat mindfully.  I do a good job of eating well:  eating whole foods and following a mostly plant based diet.  But I have my hangups with some junk foods and tend to overeat, especially when I am not being mindful about my eating.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened a bag of pistachios or popcorn in the car and when I got home realized that half the bag was gone and my car was a mess (followed soon thereafter by a declaration that “there will be no more popcorn/pistachios/other messy snacky foods eaten in this car from this point to as long as we both shall live and into eternity!”).  I can get carried away when I’m distracted.  So my goal is to eat mindfully, to take my time, to try (I said try, okay?) not to eat in front of my computer, to savor each bite and taste the flavors, to eat more deliberately.

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Let’s start with this dish.  I used Bittman’s recipe as the starting off point (see Gracie’s blog for the full recipe) but diverged quite a bit based on what I had on hand and what I was in the mood for.  My version has interesting flavors, textures, and colors…a perfect dish to enjoy mindfully.  Beet greens add color and powerful health benefits.  Currants add a hint of sweetness flavor without overpowering.  Sunflower and pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) add crunch and depth.  A little bit of heat comes in from the crushed red pepper.  And orange zest adds a bright pop to finish it off.

This recipe can be modified in any-which-way-you-choose.  So don’t get hung up on the exacts.  I used my standard grain blend, a mix of brown rice, quinoa, farro, and radish seed, which I had cooked ahead of time and frozen, making this recipe very quick and easy!

My rice blen

Next, I lightly steamed shredded beet greens.  The next time you buy a bunch of beets with the greens still attached, don’t throw them away!  They cook up much like swiss chard but I like the flavor even better.  Beet greens are also an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin A, making this a vision-boosting, cancer-fighting superfood.

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Next I sauteed some onion in a little olive oil, adding the seeds to toast for the last five minutes.  I squeezed the juice of an orange into the pan and added about 1 tsp of zest.

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Then I tossed all of the other ingredients into the pan (grain blend, beet greens, currants, red pepper flakes, salt), sprinkled it with a little patchoulie (just kidding), and voila, a bowl of righteous grains and veggies was born.

“Hippie Rice” with Beet Greens, Currants, Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds, and Orange Zest; makes 4 servings; takes 45 minutes (with pre-cooked grains will take 20 minutes)

  • 1 bunch beet greens, shredded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sunflower and/or raw pumpkin seeds (or a blend)
  • 2 cups grain blend (anything you want but I make brown rice, farro, quinoa, and radish seeds in a pot ahead of time and freeze in quart-sized plastic bags)
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1/2 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • juice of 1 small orange
  1. Put beet greens in a saucepan with 1/2 inch of water on the bottom.  Bring to a boil then simmer, steaming lightly for about 5 minutes.
  2. Put the onion in a heavy skillet and saute until lightly browned.  Add sunflower and pumpkin seeds and saute until they are lightly toasted.
  3. Add beet greens, grain blend, currants, red chile flakes, orange zest and orange juice to the pan and stir to heat through.  Enjoy!

Vegetarian Soup Sampler: French Lentil and Wild Mushroom Soup, Split Pea Soup, and Minestrone

It is 25 degrees out and snow is softly falling.  Christmas is over and New Year’s is just around the corner.  My fresh fraser fir is still up and decorated and Christmas music has given way to George Winston’s December and some great banjo tunes.  I’m thinking warm and cozy thoughts snuggled on the couch under an antique wool afghan.  Really no better time to share with you a sampler of the soups I made recently.

One day a few weeks ago, I decided my life needed some serious soup therapy.  There’s nothing I want more in cold Michigan weather than a hot bowl of soup and some crusty bread to dunk in it.  That day I set to it, chopping up mounds of carrots, celery, potato, onion, and garlic and creating three hearty vegetarian soups.  Oh, what a day!  With steam coming off of three big soup pots on my stove, the warmth in my kitchen and in my heart was tangible.

The great thing about making big pots of soup all at once (and getting the labor out of the way) is that you can freeze and enjoy the soups long after they are made.  Once the soups had cooled, I ladled some of each into quart-sized freezer bags and laid them flat in the freezer.  I’m looking forward to grabbing my choice of three soups to thaw and heat on a cold winter day in January or February.

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French Lentil and Wild Mushroom Soup

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups finely diced onion
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/2 cup finely diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups French lentils (sort through for debris/rocks and rinse)
  • 1 cup of dried wild mushrooms with reconstituting water/mushroom stock
  • 1/2 cup of kale or collard greens, thinly sliced, optional
  • 1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned), optional
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • Minced parsley for serving
  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until it browns slightly and softens somewhat, about 5 minutes.  Add tomato paste to the onion and stir to coat.  Add the garlic, celery, carrot, and parsley and cook for a few minutes.  Add the lentils, 1-2 cups of mushroom stock, 1 and 1/2 quarts of water, mushrooms and 1 and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil then turn heat down to simmer, partially covered, until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Stir in the collard greens and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the mustard and vinegar.  Taste and add more if you prefer.  Garnish with parsley and serve with a salad and crusty bread.
  4. Serve 4 to 6.

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Split Pea Soup

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, minced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 3 cups dry split peas
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry mustard powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  1. Heat oil in a frying pan and add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and potato.  Saute on medium heat until vegetables are somewhat softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Lower heat slightly so vegetables do not continue to brown and cook for another 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and set aside.
  2. Place split peas, water, salt, and dry mustard in a Dutch oven if you have one.  Otherwise a stock pot works fine.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer with a lid to partially cover for about 40 minutes.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and potato.  Simmer gently for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables and peas are soft.  If soup is too thick, thin with some water or vegetable stock.
  4. Add pepper and vinegar to taste.  Serve with a good crusty rye bread.
  5. Serves 6-8

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Minestrone

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 stalks of celery, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini or summer squash (1 inch diameter), diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cups water
  • 20-30 oz of canned tomato puree or strained tomatoes
  • 1 and 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans, white beans, or garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup dry pasta (I use mini shells or ditalini but any small pasta will do)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • Parmesan cheese to serve
  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven.  Add onion, garlic, and salt.  Saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add celery, carrot, oregano, and basil.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  2. Add bell pepper, zucchini, water, tomato puree, and beans.  Cover and simmer about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add pasta.  Cook pasta according to instructions on the box.  Drain and set aside.
  4. Test the soup to see if the vegetables are tender.  Add pasta, stir, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with parmesan cheese on top and with a crusty sourdough or baguette.
  5. Serves 6-8
  6. NOTE:  If you are freezing some of your minestrone, do not add the pasta before freezing or it will come out all mushy.  Freeze the minestrone and when you are ready to thaw and enjoy it, cook up some pasta to add to the minestone–much better!

Vegan Baked Oatmeal with Apricots, Walnuts, and Blueberries

I hope this day after Christmas finds everyone well.  For me, this cold and peaceful winter morning involved staying in bed late, drinking tea, and best of all, enjoying baked oatmeal.

Baked Oatmeal with Walnuts, Apricots, and Blueberries

I am a bona fide oatmeal lover.  I never ever thought I would be such a goody-two-shoes that I would eat oatmeal every morning.  But somehow this routine has a solid foothold now.  I have rolled oats, steel-cut oats, quick-cooking steel-cut oats, quick oats and oat bran on hand at all times.  When I travel for work, I have BetterOats packets on hand for snacking and mornings in the hotel.  So when I came across baked oatmeal after hearing people rave about it, I had to try it.  I had noticed a recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday and went at it.

We have been trying our hand at baked oatmeal recipes over the last week and I can’t get enough of it.  Next week I’m throwing a brunch for my lovely former roommate and her out-of-town guests the day after her wedding.  Being that some guests are vegan, I tried my hand at making a vegan version of baked oatmeal, launching off from Heidi Swanson’s baked oatmeal recipe from Super Natural Every Day.  Her version includes eggs, butter, and milk (and her version is delicious, I can attest) but with a few tweaks, everyone can enjoy the miracle of baked oatmeal.  I replace the milk with non-dairy almond milk (you can use soy if you prefer but I prefer the lighter taste of almond milk), the butter is replaced with oil, and the egg is replaced with a half of a mashed banana.  If you like oatmeal you will love this version, which is like a mildly sweet dessert for breakfast.  Without the guilt.  And having tried a dairy version and my vegan version, I can honestly say I liked the vegan version even better.

Baked Oatmeal in Dish

Vegan Baked Oatmeal with Apricots and Blueberries; adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday

Serves 6 for Breakfast

  • 2 cups of rolled oats (use ‘old fashioned’ oats, not ‘quick’ oats)
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup natural cane sugar or maple syrup, plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Scant 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
  • 2 cups almond milk, soy milk, or other non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 banana, mashed
  • 2 Tbsp canola or coconut oil (melted if hard)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips
  • Raspberries, to serve (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° with a rack in the top third of the oven.  Oil the inside of an 8 inch square baking dish.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the walnuts, the sugar, if using, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, if using, the non-dairy milk, 1/2 mashed banana, the oil, and the vanilla.
  4. Arrange the banana slices in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top.  Cover the fruit with the oat mixture.  Slowly drizzle the non-dairy milk mixture over the oats.  Gently give the baking dish a couple thwacks on the countertop to make sure the milk moves through the oats.  Scatter the remaining berries and remaining walnuts across the top.
  5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set.  Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.   Cut into squares and serve in bowls.  Drizzle with maple syrup and pool some almond or soy milk on the bottom.  Serve with a few raspberries if you have ’em.

Shredded Sauteed Cabbage With Tomato and Ginger

Shredded Sauteed Cabbage with Ginger and Tomato

At the risk of being totally unoriginal, I am going to share a Martha Stewart recipe because it is my absolutely favorite way to eat cabbage.  I think I ate this for three days straight a couple of weeks ago and I could have kept on going but alas, the head of cabbage had to meet it’s end.

This was one of my go-to detox dishes and a surefire way to convince anyone to enjoy cabbage.  I served mine over my grain blend (with short-grained brown rice, farro, quinoa, and radish seeds).  Note that Martha’s recipe lists ginger as optional.  It is a must, in my opinion!

Keep this recipe in your back pocket for when you ‘get back on track’ in January.  Light and healthy, yet warming.  Great as a main dish or side–I’m planning on serving these with some perogies on the day after Christmas.  Mmmmm.

Shredded Sauteed Cabbage; from Martha Stewart

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  •  1 medium onion, sliced
  •  1 tomato, chopped
  •  1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (optional)
  •  1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  •  1 small head of green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 10 cups)
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for serving
  1.  Heat a 14-inch skillet over medium-high heat, and then add the oil and onion. Saute to soften the onion slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato, ginger if using, and red-pepper flakes. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Add the cabbage and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir to combine. Cover, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally as the cabbage begins to collapse. Add a little water, 2 tablespoons at a time, as needed if the cabbage becomes too dry. (This depends on the moisture level of the cabbage. You don’t want it too wet.) Cook for approximately 13 minutes, or until the cabbage is just tender. Salt to taste and serve.

Roasted Sweet Potato Puree With Coconut Milk

Have you guys heard of Bryant Terry?  If you haven’t, I’m thrilled to introduce you.  Although his Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook is vegan (obviously), this wonderful chef belongs in any kitchen.  He offers “Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine” in this particular book along with a soundtrack for each recipe–how cool is that?  I love this book because not only are the recipes solid, his family stories are great and you get a big dose of culture as you cook.

The first recipe I tried was this Sweet Potato Puree With Coconut Milk. I am pretty daring so I decided to take a gamble the first time trying it and made a double batch for a huge potluck party.  I felt a little sheepish bringing in a big bowl of what looked like mashed sweet potatoes but that feeling soon disappeared when I had people seeking me out for the recipe.  In two months time this recipe has entered the “well loved” recipe pile and has made it to a few events.  This week, it will find itself onto another holiday table for Christmas–methinks it will become a tradition.

Somewhere in the process of this recipe, something magical happens.  It may be the extra step of roasting the sweet potatoes, or the agave sweetener (which I love), or the creaminess from one of my pantry favorites, coconut milk.  But I don’t want to know what does it–this dish is perfectly delicious.  So close your eyes and enjoy!

Sweet Potato Puree With Coconut Milk

Roasted Sweet Potato Puree with Coconut Milk; adapted from Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 can coconut milk, warmed (use the full fat version for best results)
  • A few tablespoons of chopped pecans to serve (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, agave nectar, coconut oil, and sea salt.  Toss well.
  3. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a parchment-lined baking dish or roasting pan and roast for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven.
  5. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the sweet potatoes with warmed coconut milk.  Puree, adding a little hot water if needed (my sweet potatoes were dry and needed a little bit more liquid) and transfer to a serving dish.  Top with some pecans if using.