The New Nutrient-Dense Comfort Food
Recently, one of my patients asked me about the last time I had fried chicken. They were genuinely interested since it was one of their weaknesses to keeping their blood sugars under control, along with sodas. It’s a usual struggle for my patients here in the South, but it caught me off guard when they asked about my own intake. I paused, trying to remember the last time I had a piece. I finally concluded it had been at least 2 years. It struck me then that I’ve lived in the South my entire adult life and fried chicken is not a regular part of my diet. I chuckled inwardly at how unorthodox I am. Then, it occurred to me how grateful I should be that I don’t struggle with cravings for “fried foods” anymore.
Every part of me wishes my patients could adopt a similar perspective about food – that it’s more about nourishment than cravings. The benefits of this mindset are enormous. It has given me a more functional body – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally – as well as a new level of enjoyment and pleasure in consuming food, without the guilt or health consequences. I would give up sodas and fried chicken any day for that.
Probably the closest meal I’ve had to fried chicken in the past few years is falafel. One of my favorite restaurants in Memphis, TN, affectionately refers to falafel as the “Big Mac of the Middle East.” I agree, except there is no guilt with these dreamy balls of goodness. Why? Because they are full of herbs, chickpeas, and spices instead of fatty meat. In my opinion, falafel is one of the most nutrient-dense comfort foods out there.
Sweet Potato Falafel
Unlike traditional falafel made with chickpea flour, which is not always available in grocery stores, all the ingredients in this sweet potato falafel recipe can be found in a regular grocery store. Sweet potatoes, oats, canned chickpeas, cilantro, and tahini make up the bulk of these dreamy, wholesome bites. If tahini is something your grocery store doesn’t carry, you can simply substitute with almond butter.
Also, if you are a parent with littles, give these a try for your kiddos. My daughter loves them! They would make an excellent lunch for the whole family, especially nestled in pita bread or topped on a salad.
As someone who eats mostly plant-based meals, I’ve had my fair share of falafel at various restaurants. One thing I can’t stand is when the falafel is overpowered by cumin. I can only handle cumin in small amounts – thanks to pregnancy aversions that never went away. This recipe has a subtle but wonderful mix of spices and herbs so that nothing is overpowered by one flavor, just how it should be.
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup tahini (optional sub: almond butter)
- ½ cup oat flour (optional sub: quick-cooking oats)
- 2 cups cilantro, washed and most of stems removed
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed and peeled
- Juice of 1 lime
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Prep ingredients: peel and chop sweet potato, drain and rinse chickpeas, wash and de-stem cilantro, mash and peel garlic cloves, and squeeze out lime juice.
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until everything is well combined.
- Transfer falafel mixture to a bowl (or you can leave in food processor and remove the blade).
- Using a small spoon, scoop out falafel mixture into palm of hand and roll into a ball. Flatten it out slightly. The falafel should be about the size in diameter of a small lime. Continue until all falafel patties are formed.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, cover the bottom of the pan with extra virgin olive oil. Once the pan is heated through, add sweet potato falafel and cook on each side for 3-5 minutes or until each side is a golden brown color. Place falafel patties on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess oil.
- Continue until all falafel patties are cooked and serve warm.
- Keeps in the refrigerator up to 7 days.
I hope you give these a try and if so, send me a picture! Tag me on Instagram or Facebook and it will absolutely make my day. In the meantime, I’m sending you all the sweet potato and chickpea love!