A plant-powered dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free dish with a 'cheesy' topping to make for yourself or loved ones to enjoy!
Cook the potatoes using your desired method (e.g., microwaved, boiled, steamed, roasted or baked). To use the microwave method, pierce each washed potato a few times with a fork, then place the potatoes into a large microwaveable bowl. Add a tablespoon of water, then cover the bowl completely with a plate or another bowl. Microwave on a 'high' setting for 4 minutes, then check to see if the potatoes are cooked (pierce a potato with a fork or knife to see if it goes through easily). If the potato still needs cooking, microwave this potato for a further 1-3 minutes, checking each time, until the potatoes are cooked through. (If you have a small microwave, you may only be able to cook 2 potatoes at a time). Once the potatoes have finished cooking, set them aside to let them cool (don’t slit them yet).
Meanwhile, drain and rinse the canned lentils (if not using cooked lentils), then let the lentils sit for 2-3 minutes in a fine mesh strainer or colander to remove any excess liquid. (Note: if you are using home cooked lentils, then after the lentils are drained, mix a cup’s worth of the home cooked lentils with an additional ½ teaspoon of soy sauce (or tamari sauce or coconut aminos) in a small bowl and let this sit to marinate for at least 5 minutes, or until it is used later in this recipe.) However, if you are using regular canned green or brown lentils, you would not need to marinate these lentils with soy sauce, as the canned lentils already contain salt.
Next, wash a small butternut squash well, before cutting it into half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds inside, then use a fruit peeler to remove the thin outer skin.
After this, grate the exposed butternut squash flesh using a large holed grater or shredder to get 2 cups’ worth for the recipe. (If there is any remaining unused butternut squash left, you can use plastic wrap to cover this unused portion, and store it for at least a few days in the fridge for later use in another recipe.)
In a separate bowl, mix the butternut shreds with a tablespoon of onion powder, ½ teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons of nutritional yeast and 3 teaspoons of soy sauce (or tamari sauce or coconut aminos). Combine well and let this mixture sit to marinate for at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the onion and bell pepper into thin strips, then heat a large skillet on medium heat with a teaspoon of oil. Tilt the pan a few times to coat the bottom of the pan well with the oil.
When the oil is heated, add in the finely sliced onions and bell peppers and sauté this mixture for 5 minutes, or until the onion slices are soft and translucent. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Now add the grated butternut squash mixture to the skillet and stir well to combine all the contents together. Then let this mixture cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the contents from sticking to the bottom of the skillet. Turn down the stove heat setting if needed.
9. After the 5 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings further as needed for the combined skillet mixture. Then move this mixture to one side of the skillet, and place the lentils on the other side of the skillet to heat through (about 1-2 minutes).
Now slit open the cooked potatoes, then mash up the inside of the potatoes with a fork (you can add in 1-2 teaspoons of unsweetened or original flavored fortified plant-based milk to each potato while mashing if the potato flesh is too dry to mash well).
Next, fill each potato with 1/4 cup of the heated cooked or canned lentils. If you like, you can mix in other additions into the lentil and mashed potato filling for each potato, such as more nutritional yeast, a little vegan butter, sautéed kale and/or a ½ teaspoon of ground flaxseed.
Finally, place the seasoned cooked butternut squash mixture on top of each stuffed potato. These stuffed potatoes are ready to be devoured!
If you have time, cooking the sliced onions longer until they become caramelized will add even more flavor to your dish.
Add other spices/flavorings if desired. The nutritional yeast (if fortified with vitamin B-12) would be a great source of vitamin B-12, and also contributes to a ‘cheesy’ flavor in the baked potato.
For an oil-free recipe, use 2-3 tablespoons of a vegetable broth (more if needed) in a heated skilled to cook the onions, butternut squash and bell pepper slices.