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Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

By Alyna O'Hanlon

April 1, 2020

I haven't had a baked potato since I was a kid. Recently I found myself feeling drawn to the idea of making one.  Perhaps my subconscious is grasping for comforts of a simpler time? A returning to roots of sorts?

Sweet potatoes. We dig them up from the earth. Scrub the dirt from their tough skin.  We store them for stretches of time until the day we are ready to break through their rough exterior and consume the tender starch, nourishing our cells with an abundance of energy, fiber, and vitamins.

There are many ways to prepare a sweet potato. Mashed, candied, scalloped, fried, baked...  Baked felt like the way to go. You get to build a thing with a baked potato. While this dish reminds me of childhood it also asks for a creativity that connects me to perhaps my strongest root, my mother.

My mom is a magical, creative human whose artfulness flows into most everything she does, including her cooking. A dash of this here, a splash of that there. Whatever is at hand, she makes things work with little worry of following any recipe too closely. 

I've found myself employing this approach to cooking as the shelter in place ordinance has altered the frequency of grocery store visits. The toppings heaped upon the potato for this meal were largely dictated by what things we had. I like cooking like this. Less exactness, more play and openness. Let things happen.

Baking the potato and coconut bacon (which I highly recommend if you desire a crunchy, flavorful vegetarian topping) are the steps of this recipe where following rules (specifically paying attention to temperature and time) would be advised. Otherwise, I say dress up your potato to your heart's delight!

Making this recipe for this post was nice for many reasons including that it encouraged me to be intentional with my choices. What would I share with you? Why? In addition to the toppings, another choice that I made for this meal was the dishes upon which to serve it. They are my very favorite plates. And I'd like to show them to you. 

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Aren't they mysterious and striking? They were hand-etched by my dear, dear friend Janice, who gifted them to me when she relocated from Portland to Port Townsend, WA last year. She moved to Portland in the 1970s and used to draw a cartoon for the Mercury based on the character etched here. I'm trying to find a way to weave this into roots and potato toppings but I'm not sure there is one? But I guess this is to say that our method of serving a meal can nourish us too! And connect us to our past and pasts beyond.  Thanks for looking at my favorite plates!

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STEP 1: Bake potatoes

Preheat oven to 425

As I learned from this lovely blog, tin foil is not necessary! (Foil results in a wet almost slimy skin while no foil makes for a caramelized quality)

Poke holes along the top of potatoes, place in oven for 40-50 minutes.

STEP 2: Prepare toppings

This is where you can get creative!

Suggestions: blanched kale, corn, avocado, garbanzo beans, green onion, coconut bacon*, cheese, yogurt (or sour cream), and butter

*For the coconut bacon, I recommend making this in the oven before baking the potato since the recipe here calls for a lower temperature, which is important to follow as the coconut can burn quite quickly.