A few months ago, I did a cooking demo for some friends of mine, and the theme of the class was, “Easy ways to get more vegetables in your diet.” Because the only other thing that ALL diets agree on (beside eat way less sugar, and no trans fat), is that we should all probably be eating more vegetables!
This sweet potato hash was the hit of the night! They all loved it, not just because of how great it tastes, but also because it is SO easy to put together. (One mom of three little ones said she made it for breakfast the next two days!) Another great thing about this dish is that it’s a great way to use up leftovers.
And it’s a simple, tasty way to get three or more vegetables on the table, in one dish!
About measurements, Part 1
The pan I’m using here is an 8″ nonstick frying pan. A well-seasoned cast iron one would work, too. Also, it’s important to note that I’m cooking for one here — as you probably should while you’re experimenting. But once you’re cooking for real, and if you’re cooking for more than one, just scale the measurements I give you up accordingly. Double them for two people, triple for three, etc.
About measurements, Part 2
I used to not EVER cook anything without a recipe, and always measured everything. Baking definitely requires that you stick to some important ratios, but dishes like the ones I’m going to show you today are a lot more forgiving. And part of what makes these dishes so quick and easy is that you don’t have to pull out the measuring cups/spoons, then scoop, pour, and level. You just get an approximate amount in the pan and — trust me — it’ll come out okay!
You may have some mishaps as you learn. But as my childrens’ first grade teacher Mrs. Maxwell often said, “It’s okay to make mistakes!”
That’s why you’re doing this food lab today. You’re going to test this method in small batches and get a feel for what works with your equipment, and for your taste buds. You may singe one batch or put too much salt in another; that’s okay. There are no food police patrolling your neighborhood. Make the mistake, learn from it, and move on! (Good advice for life, too!)
Okay: you ready?
Also, prep one or two sweet potatoes according to my method here. But you can go ahead and cut all the way through the skin for a complete dice.
If it’s not already in bite-sized pieces, you might also want to chop your already-cooked meat. (Optional, if you want this to be a side dish, or you’re vegetarian.) Sausage, ham, pulled pork or carnitas, grilled or roasted chicken, cooked seasoned ground beef, smoked salmon — all legit candidates!
Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:
- Diced onion
- Diced cooked sweet potato
- Already cooked meat of various kinds (optional)
- Baby spinach
- Other vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms…
(See what that looks like in my fridge here.)
So, once you have those ready, you’re ready for the method.
Heat your pan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.
(Sorry for the fuzzy pictures. I was actually cooking my lunch for this, and the dish goes fast, so there’s not a lot of time for second shots.)
Meanwhile, coarsely chop one or two handfuls of baby spinach, and dice any other raw veggies you’re going to use. (A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use.) Bell peppers are a nice addition, and one quarter of a good-sized bell pepper should be about right. If I were adding other uncooked vegetables, I would add them after the onions were in the pan for just a few minutes. But if the only vegetables you’re adding are spinach and already-cooked sweet potato — as I am in these photos — wait until the onions are fairly translucent before adding anything else.
Add the coarsely chopped spinach. Salt it lightly — this helps break down the cell walls, and also flavors the spinach, which is sort of bland. It will begin to cook down quickly. Once it’s about half-wilted, add your meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand.
Today, I had one leftover chicken thigh, and one taco’s worth of carnitas, so I diced those to bite-sized pieces and threw them both in. Stir that around and let it warm for a minute or so.
Add your sweet potato, and leave it just until the potato is heated through, stirring once or twice, gently. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper — or another seasoning mix or herbs according to your taste. On this day, I added a little taco seasoning.
I often make this dish with sausage and/or bacon for the protein. In those cases, you really don’t need any other seasoning besides a lighter sprinkle of salt (since there’s a lot of salt in the meat) and black pepper to taste.
Another thing I like to do is serve this with a Wholly Guacamole Mini on the side. (This isn’t a sponsored post; but hey, WG, if you’re reading, let’s talk! 🙂 )
Now, what makes this dish so versatile is that you can add any number of veggies and use various meats, and come up with numerous combos. Here are just a few I’ve done…
With diced breakfast sausage for the meat, chopped avocado, and a couple of fried eggs, this makes a hearty breakfast — or any meal, really!
Broccoli, broken into small florets, is another yummy addition. Chopped asparagus would be another nice option.
Here, the hash is in the background, and includes some bacon and mushrooms!
Sometime, I scramble an egg or two, chop that up and add it to the hash.
And yes, you can make it without sweet potatoes. In the photo above, chicken apple sausage is bringing a slight sweet note to the mix. Sliced avocado (in the background) adds some healthy fat.
As you can tell by all the eggs, I’ve made this for breakfast a lot, but with enough meat and maybe another side, it’s also hearty enough for dinner. Sausage and mushroom, show above. (Find this simple green bean dish here.)
I also sometimes make this with just the onions, bell pepper, and sweet potato; season with taco seasoning (or just a bit of cumin and ancho powder); and serve it as a side dish when the main dish is Mexican-ish.
So, I hope you’re inspired! Get out your frying pan, and start experimenting! I’d love to hear your comments or questions.
(Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.)