Lifting weights can sometimes mean getting creative with ways to fit in more calories. Nuts, grains and beans are all biggies when it comes to nutrient-dense, calorie-dense foods, and I confess to being a fiend for grains. (Come to think of it, I’m a fiend for a lot of amazing vegan foods, but that’s the joy of eating, right??)
Recently, though, I put myself on an elimination protocol in an attempt to heal some problems I’ve been having with digestion and allergies. This involved a couple of weeks without any grains at all–a big deal for someone who normally eats oatmeal for breakfast, rice or quinoa at lunch and dinner and a big square of baked oatmeal at some point during the day. Rice cakes, crackers and noodles also had to go for that short period, leaving me with few of the foods I often rely on to bulk up my caloric intake over the course of the day.
Lucky for me, I stumbled upon black bean spaghetti while browsing a local specialty health food store. Not that I eat tons and tons of noodles, but it’s nice to know there’s an alternative for when I don’t feel like having wheat pasta. Plus it’s something I can recommend to gluten-free clients seeking a tasty spaghetti replacement!
This did not, however, solve my dilemma entirely. Turns out this type of pasta has fewer calories than wheat pasta but a lot more protein. Too much protein + my stomach = serious digestive problems, which was precisely what I was trying to avoid on the protocol. That meant I couldn’t just toss more noodles in the pot or mix in some beans as I often do to increase calories. What to do to balance it out?
Invent Sweet Potato Almond Butter Sauce, of course! Carbs + fat + protein = a much happier stomach for Sam. And, of course, the combination of sweet potatoes and black beans is quite a classic one, albeit one I usually enjoy in Mexican food rather than Asian. Since I was planning a stir fry, the sauce took on a decidedly Asian flavor with zesty ginger, spicy cayenne pepper and a bit of saltiness from liquid aminos.
This makes a smooth, creamy sauce that can be poured over noodles, grains, cooked veggies, beans and rice–pretty much anything. I’d imagine certain fruits might even taste good dipped in it, but I’ll leave that up to your discretion. It’s a simple process: steam or boil diced sweet potatoes, add almond butter and seasonings, blend it all up with a little water and you’re good to go. Remember to vent the steam out of the blender or food processor to avoid pressure buildup if your sweet potatoes are still hot.
Between cooking the sweet potatoes and blending the sauce, it comes together in less than half an hour, so you can make it while you’re cooking whatever you want to put it on top of. If you do cook up some grains or noodles, try making the sauce ahead of time and saving the sweet potato water to prepare them in! It’s full of vitamins and minerals, and it adds an extra touch of sweet flavor.
- 1 large sweet potato, cut into small cubes
- ¼ c raw almond butter
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- Bragg's liquid aminos (optional)
- water as needed
- Place the sweet potato cubes in a medium saucepan and add water to cover. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently, covered, for about 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Alternatively, place the sweet potatoes in a steamer inside a medium pot with 1 inch of water in the bottom. Cover and steam for 15 minutes.
- Run the sweet potatoes under cold water to stop the cooking process, drain, and transfer to a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth, stopping to vent the steam and scrape down the sides now and then. Add water until the desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
- Use immediately or store in the refrigerator in a covered container to use any time!
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