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Blog > Cooking: A Key Ingredient in My Recipe for Recovery

Cooking: A Key Ingredient in My Recipe for Recovery

Dean Dauphinais
| July 8, 2015

I love to cook. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. In fact, as I sit here typing, I have four whole chickens brining in the refrigerator, waiting for their mid-morning date with the smoker.

I didn’t start cooking until I was in my early 30s, when I lost my job and my wife made the decision to go back to work. It was then that I began a two-year stint as a stay-at-home dad, taking care of my young son and doing all the things necessary to run a household. Including cooking.

Up until that point, I had hardly any cooking experience at all. Sure, I could make grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese out of a box. But other than that, I was a neophyte in the kitchen. Things had to change, though, because it wasn’t fair to have my wife work all day, then come home and have to cook dinner. So I decided I was going to expand my cooking knowledge and see if I could feed my family without getting anybody sick.

I remember the first real entrée I cooked: It was meatloaf, and I remember calling my mom and asking her for her recipe. I still have the scrap of paper I wrote that recipe down on, but I don’t have to look at it anymore because it’s all in my head now.

Fast-forward to the late 1990s. That same son I stayed at home with for two years was now a teenager struggling with addiction. My world was turned upside down, and I felt lost and helpless. But I eventually learned that self-care and my recovery were just as important as my son’s recovery. I needed to do things that made me feel better so that I could have some semblance of a normal life while I dealt with my son’s issues. Cooking was one of those things.

During my son’s active addiction, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, immersing myself in cooking. I still cooked from recipes I found in the countless cookbooks I’d collected over the years, but I also took things to the next level. I started creating my own recipes and making original dishes that actually tasted good. To quote a famous Cajun chef: “Bam!”

Like writing, cooking is incredibly therapeutic to me. When I’m cooking, my mind is focused on the task at hand; not on the little—and not so little—life problems that bring stress to my world. I feel at peace in the kitchen. It’s my happy place and my sanctuary. There’s no doubt that cooking has been a key ingredient in my recipe for recovery from my son’s addiction.

Today, my son is three years clean and sober, and I’m still cooking up a storm. I do about 95 percent of the cooking in my house, which makes my wife super happy. Best of all, it makes me super happy, too.

I thought I would share one of my favorite original recipes with you. This recipe was made up as I went along, so I apologize if quantities/measurements aren’t exact. The recipe as it is below makes about 14 enchiladas (two pans of seven each). So you may want to adjust accordingly. Enjoy!

Grilled Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into “planks”

1 onion, chopped

1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped

1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed

19 oz. of red enchilada sauce

8 oz. shredded “Mexican Blend” cheese

8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

14 soft taco size flour tortillas

Olive oil

Kosher salt



Chipotle chili powder

Fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 tbsp. butter

Put the sweet potato “planks” on a couple of baking sheets. Brush the surface with olive oil, then season with kosher salt, pepper, and cumin. Turn the sweet potatoes over and brush the other side with olive oil, seasoning with kosher salt, pepper, and chipotle chili powder.

Grill the sweet potato planks on a grill over medium heat (with the top closed) for 10 minutes. Flip the sweet potatoes over and grill with the top closed for another 10 minutes. (Don’t be alarmed if the sweet potatoes char. When they char, you get all kinds of flavor and crunch without a burnt taste. It’s caramelization, baby!) Note: I suppose you could broil the sweet potatoes instead of grilling them, if you wanted to.

When potatoes are done, transfer them from the grill to a large bowl and mash them with a potato masher (I added about a tablespoon of butter to mine).

Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and sauté the onion and jalapeno until soft.

Add the onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and black beans to the mashed sweet potatoes and mix thoroughly with a spatula.

Brush the inside of two 9 x 13 baking pans with olive oil. Then pour enchilada sauce into the pans so that it covers the bottom.

Prepare each enchilada by spooning approximately 3 tablespoons of the potato mixture down the center of a tortilla. Then sprinkle about a tablespoon of the Mexican cheese blend on top of that. Roll up the tortilla and put in the pan (seam side down). Continue doing this until you’ve used up all the potato mixture.

When your enchiladas are done being assembled and are in the pans, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top of them. Then cover with the shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce is bubbling.

Serve immediately. Suggested garnishes: sour cream and guacamole.

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