Chocolate bark studded with sweet and salty tidbits is just the perfect treat to have waiting in the wings. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Here we are, counting the days until spring. I’m coming up with springy recipe ideas for the weeks ahead and still enjoying the cozy main dishes that have sustained me through the winter season.

This unique take on stuffed potatoes is versatile and easy. Some advice on this comforting main dish: go with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, not a thick, sweet one as that will overpower the other ingredients, and please don’t cook the potatoes in the microwave. In my experience, you’ll end up with sweet potato flesh that’s gummy and just not nice. You want the fluffier texture that only comes from baking these spuds in the oven. And speaking of spuds, you can also make up this recipe with russet potatoes if you prefer, replacing the cilantro with crispy bacon as a garnish.

The sweet potato version also makes a lovely, easy filling for baked acorn or spaghetti squash halves. You may want to try 1/2 cup or so of black beans in the mix for the sweet potatoes if you want some more heartiness, or as a substitute for some of the chicken.

And, of course, you’ve made chocolate bark in your lifetime, right? But this is special. The combination of sweet, juicy pomegranate and salty pumpkin seeds surrounded by dark chocolate is nothing short of heavenly. Besides, this is a very practical way to stretch a bar of chocolate into a fancy treat with hardly any effort at all. No baking and you don’t really even have to measure anything. Just eyeball it.

All you need is one bar of chocolate and hey, you can melt that down and sprinkle it with whatever the heck you please. And if you’re tired of my pomegranate seed recipes (give it a rest, Karen) another suggestion is a cashew/dried cherry combo, which is every bit as elegant.

The bark can be kept in the refrigerator for any and all occasions. As a matter of fact, I’m going to have a piece right now.


Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at or 504-0545.

Barbecue chicken stuffed sweet potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded

1 cup vinegar-based barbecue sauce

1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded

1/4 cup red onions, finely diced, for garnish


Cilantro, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes and prick holes in the skin with a sharp knife. Place the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until very tender. Allow the potatoes to cool enough to handle. Leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together chicken, barbecue sauce and cheese.

When the potatoes are cooled, slice them lengthwise and push the ends to open them like a bowl. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon leaving about half an inch of potato around the edges. Mash up the sweet potato in a separate bowl then stir into the chicken mixture. Spoon it all into the potato skin bowls.

Place the stuffed potatoes back on the baking sheet and return them to the oven for about 10 minutes, until they are heated through and the cheese is melted.

Garnish with red onion and cilantro.


Yield: 4 servings

Chocolate bark with healthy bits

4 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70 % cacao), chopped

1/4 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Melt chocolate in a glass measuring cup or bowl in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring in between until melted and smooth. Pour onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and smooth with a knife. Sprinkle pumpkin and pomegranate seeds onto the chocolate then press seeds in. Allow to set and chill in the refrigerator at least 3 hours. Break into pieces.

Yield: 4 servings

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