It’s still March Madness, which means I have another perfect game-day appetizer to share. This recipe was inspired by a meal I cooked for a client following the Whole30 diet. If you don’t know the rules of Whole30, it’s pretty much clean eating, with no grains, dairy or beans, and a focus on produce and high-quality meats and poultry. This diet plan is almost impossible for a vegetarian like me (no grains, dairy or beans? I definitely cannot sustain that). However, for a meat-eater, this is an amazing option to both lose weight and to transition into a clean eating lifestyle.
Given the rules, this recipe fits into the Whole30 regimen. Baked potato skins, an easy tomato sauce, homemade cashew cream and broccoli florets are all acceptable foods on Whole30. For my client, who eats meat, I added crumbled and cooked italian sausage, but for me, roasted broccoli is the perfect meat-free topping. This recipe is a clean, whole and delicious appetizer or main dish, and it not only pleases Whole30 peeps, but also satisfies vegans, vegetarians and gluten-freers too. Before getting to the recipe, check out my breakdown of the top health-supportive elements in this dish, and then head to the kitchen to whip up this healthy, satisfying and delicious dish.
Potatoes are sometimes looked down upon because they’re “carby”, but potatoes are actually a super healthy food containing substantial amounts of fiber, protein, potassium, magnesium, iron, niacin, thiamin, b-6 vitamins and vitamin-c. Vitamin b-6 helps with a variety of essential bodily functions such as immunity, mood, digestion, metabolism, energy production and brain function. Added bonus, b vitamins are known for their healthy skin and hair benefits. Iron, which is highly concentrated in the potato’s skin, is known for providing energy and supporting the immune system. Vitamin-c is also important here because it allows the body to absorb and utilize the iron found in plant-based food like potatoes.
Cashews, like other nuts, provide protein and healthy unsaturated fats, which help to fight high cholesterol. Additionally, cashew cream adds dairy-free richness and makes plant-based meals super satisfying. Because they are a softer nut, cashews and water easily transform into a smooth, creamy sauce without needing an expensive high-power blender (like a Vitamix).
Tomatoes, like in my quick tomato sauce, are a great source of antioxidants such as lycopene. Lycopene is associated with bone strength, fighting certain types of cancer and protecting against a variety of toxins and pesticides commonly found in modern foods. Tomatoes are also high in other nutrients like vitamin-c, vitamin-k and biotin, to name just a few. Vitamin C, as I mentioned earlier, allows for plant-based sources of iron to be absorbed by the body (very important for vegetarians like me). And biotin (vitamin b-7) is commonly associated with healthy skin, hair and nails. Additionally, because tomatoes are low on the glycemic index scale, they are helpful in regulating blood sugar levels.
Vegan Pizza Potato Skins with Roasted Broccoli
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, fine grain
** you can add any desired pizza toppings to these easy potato skins… try crumbled sausage, shredded chicken, roasted veggies, diced onions, red bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, fresh herbs or leafy greens
In a medium bowl, soak cashews in 4 cups water for 2-4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
Prepare potatoes. Note that the potatoes and garlic have similar cooking times so they should go into the oven together. Using a fork, poke each potato 4 times, twice on each side. Rub potatoes with olive oil and season liberally with salt. Place directly onto oven rack. Bake for 50-60 minutes, just as skin begins to pull away and flesh is very tender.
While potatoes and garlic cook, make red sauce. Chop garlic and onions. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sweat for 3-4 minutes. Add oregano, thyme, fennel seed and black pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup water and an additional 3/4 teaspoon salt. Simmer until thickened, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.
While the sauce simmers, cut broccoli into small florets. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bake in 400 degree (F) oven for 10-15 minutes, or until edges are beginning to turn dark and crispy.
Make cashew “cheese” sauce. Drain and rinse cashews. In a food processor or high powered blender, add soaked cashews, roasted garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 cup water. Blend until smooth and creamy. This takes 3-6 minutes depending on blender strength.
Assemble the potato skins. Divide red sauce evenly amongst the 8 potato skins. Add 2-3 tablespoons of vegan cashew cheese sauce to each potato boat. Top with roasted broccoli florets. Bake for 10 minutes in 400 degree (F) oven or until warmed through.