Welcoming Fall with Sweet Potatoes

I spend a lot of time in the summer dreading the fall.  Warm, sunny weather in the Pacific Northwest is a rarity and I truly do hate to see it go.  But now that cooler days have set in, I’ve remembered that I actually like wearing scarves and sweaters, using the fireplace, and making crock-pot dinners.  I also love sweet potatoes.

Even for breakfast.

These are perfect alongside some local grass-fed goat sausages.  I made enough for a few days and then breakfast was just a few microwave buttons away.

Cumin Roasted Sweet Potatoes
serves 3-4
adapted from September 2012′s Vegetarian Times 

Ingredients
- 3 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika

Preheat oven to 425F.  Toss all ingredient in a large baking dish until vegetables are well coated.  Roast for about 45 minutes, until fork-tender, stirring halfway through.

I added this post to this week’s Full Plate ThursdayThriving on ThursdaysWhole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Allergy Free WednesdayFat Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Cast Party Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Traditional Tuesday, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Strawberry Matcha Smoothie

Rhetorical question: What’s a girl to do with a freezer full of strawberries?

Last week, a friend and I headed out to a strawberry farm about 30 minutes from home.  The weather was perfect and strawberries were in their prime.  In just a few hours, I picked 22 pounds (not including the ones I ate…I really think these u-pick farms should weigh me before and after I go out in their fields in order to charge me more accurately).  To be clear, these were not your run-of-the-mill grocery store strawberries imported from California.  These were a variety called Hood strawberries that are smaller, more flavorful, and rare treats given that their harvesting season lasts about a month or less.  I was determined to come home with enough to last me through the summer.

For all their good qualities, Hood strawberries can’t boast a long shelf life.  One they’re picked, they want to be eaten in a day or two.  Their thin skins quickly become too soft and, as I learned, piling more than a couple of layers in your picking box will yield a layer of strawberry mash at the bottom.  Which means that I had my work laid out for me when I got home from the farm.  There was not time to waste.  The rest of my day was spent washing, topping, and freezing strawberries.  It’s so satisfying to open my freezer door to see the “fruits” of my labor staring back at me.  :)

Because it’s strawberry season, I’ve been seeing tons of tempting strawberry recipes around the web.  To name a few:

I want to make ALL of these.  But for now, I’ve been perfectly happy blending them into creamy smoothies.  Jeremy has been even less fancy…he eats them straight from the freezer!

Strawberry Matcha Smoothie
serves 1

Ingredients:
- 1/2 banana, the riper the better
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tbsp cream (optional)
- 1 tsp matcha powder

Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy right away.

* I shared this post with Seasonal Recipe RoundupGluten-Free WednesdayFat Tuesday, Hearth and Soul HopSlightly Indulgent TuesdayMy Meatless Mondays, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Monday Mania, and Mix it Up Monday.

Ayurvedic Vata Apple Breakfast Bowl

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with personality quizzes.  You know the kind, they came every month in Seventeen magazine (or Cosmo, if you wanted to be more risqué).  There were entire websites dedicated to helping visitors learn what kind of friends they were, which Jane Austen characters they most closely resembled, and, of course, whether or not their crushes liked them back.  I remember losing hours immersed in these quizzes…talk about wasted youth.

Apparently, I still have a penchant for that kind of entertainment because when I stumbled on a site offering an Ayurvedic dosha quiz, I just couldn’t resist.  Basically, in Ayurveda (an ancient system of medicine originating in India) there are 3 basic body types, or doshas: Vata, Kapha, and Pitta.  I have to admit to knowing very little else and so I encourage you to do a web search if you want to learn more.  HeyMonicaB is a fun site for that.  From my quiz (ok, I took a few) I learned that I am a Vata type, which is wonderful news because Vatas are encouraged to eat plenty of butter or ghee and sweet things.  Woohoo!  On the flip side, a lot of raw produce is discouraged.  :(

This is the breakfast I devised based on what I learned about Vata diet recommendations. I can’t guarantee that it is faithful to Ayurvedic principles, but I can assure you that it is absolutely delicious!

Vata Apple Breakfast Bowl
serves 1

Ingredients:
- 3/4-1 cup water
- 1 apple, cubed
- 1/4 oats or 1/2 cup leftover cooked rice
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- several dashes cinnamon
- a dash each of ground nutmeg and cloves
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
- a generous pat of butter

Heat water over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add apples and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  While the apples are cooking, add remaining ingredients to the skillet and stir occasionally.  The liquid that is not soaked up will form a delicious, flavorful syrup. Serve hot.

* I shared this post on this week’s Simple Lives Thursday, Real Food Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, Whole Foods WednesdayGluten Free WednesdayFat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

New Breakfast Food: Quinoa Flakes!

Not that I need any new breakfast foods.  All my favorite meals tend to be breakfast-centric: eggs served all kinds of ways, smoothies, oatmeal…I could probably live on those foods and be perfectly happy.  Which is why I was intrigued when I noticed a few fellow bloggers mentioning quinoa flake breakfast bowls.  In the past, I’ve tried making a breakfast-y version of quinoa with all my usual oatmeal toppings but found the result to be less than stellar.  I wasn’t sure that the flakes would be any different but when I noticed them in the bulk section of my food co-op, I decided to give it a try.

And the verdict is…great!  The quinoa flavor was not overpowering at all and texture was super smooth and creamy.  Add all your favorite toppings; you won’t be disappointed.

There was another first involved in making this recipe: stevia.  Maybe you’ve already tried this natural non-caloric sweetener and you either loved it or hated it.  I was leaning more towards hating it (my mouth knows what’s real sugar and what’s not) but I used a bit in this recipe to sweeten it up and actually enjoyed it.  I think the trick is to use a very small amount (I was just looking for a little bit of extra sweetness).  There was also “real” sugar in my bowl from all the strawberries, which may have also helped.

So what do you think about stevia?  Is it a friend or foe?

Quinoa Flake Breakfast Bowl
serves 1

Ingredients
- 1/3 cup quinoa flakes
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 Tbsp flax seeds
- 2 Tbsp shredded coconut
- 1 cup chopped strawberries
- 1 cup coconut or almond milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- stevia, to tase

Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.  You may need to add extra milk as the chia seeds absorb liquid.

Cherry-Almond Granola

This weekend was so beautiful that it made me remember why I live in Portland.  Sure, we were back to cloudy skies and even some snow on the ground for my 6am(!) bike ride this morning, but the recent memory of sunshine made everything much more bearable.

Spring is coming!

Gnarly trunk.

And I’ve got more than photographs to tide me over until the next beautiful day.  I also have what might be some of the best granola in the world.  Seriously, I stood at the counter for a good 15 minutes after it came out of the oven continually popping bits into my mouth.  Then I remembered that I should save some to enjoy with coconut milk later this week.  It was hard to step away.  This is some seriously good granola.

I decided to keep it simple and stick with the cherry and almond flavors.  Now, I usually like to try and add just about anything that sounds good from my pantry to a recipe like this.  I like to use up all the little odds and ends of dry goods that I’ve got stashed away.  But sometimes simplicity is key and I managed to keep it simple for once.  Which I know can be hard when your pantry looks like this.

So many types of dried fruits and nuts calling my name.  I resisted the siren call and realized that it can pay to be a person of simple tastes now and then.

Before baking.

Who ate all that?

Cherry-Almond Granola
makes 2 cups

Ingredients
-  6 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1/4 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
- 1/2 cup dried bing cherries, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, and cherries.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring maple syrup, almond butter, coconut oil, and almond extract to a gentle boil.  Stir constantly for just a couple of minutes and then pour over dry ingredients.  Mix until evenly coated (you may have to use your hands).

Spread granola in a large oven-safe pan.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring once.  Remove from oven and let cool.  It will get crunchy as it cools down.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

* I added this post to this week’s Whole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Slow Cooker Apricot-Currant Oatmeal

Question: What’s better than waking up to a warm, delicious breakfast that’s ready to eat?  I’m not sure there’s an answer to that, especially when said breakfast costs very little and is extremely nutritious.  That’s why I’m sharing these slow cooker oats today.  It’s a versatile recipe and I can think of dozens of delicious variations that you could try at home.  Have some extra apples lying around?  Dice them up and throw them in.  Do you like coconut?  I’ll bet some shredded coconut would be a great addition.  Prefer your oatmeal on the sweeter side?  Include some brown sugar, agave syrup, or honey.  I liked mine drizzled with a little whole milk or half-and-half.  Make sure if you’re making this that you use steel cut oats.  Rolled oats will turn into unappetizing mush if cooked this long but the steel cut oats hold their texture nicely.  Let me know if you come up with any great variations!

Blog business: I may not be able to post any new recipes next week.  I’m headed up to Minneapolis tomorrow to spend the holiday with friends and family.  I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and I’ll check back in here as soon as I get home if not before!

Slow Cooker Apricot-Currant Oatmeal
serves 4-6

Ingredients
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup currants
- 6-8 apricots, chopped
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- optional toppings: honey, yogurt, cream, coconut flakes, butter, ground flax seeds…you get the idea

1. Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker before you go to bed the night before.

2. Set temperature to LOW and cook while you sleep!  It will be ready in 7-9 hours.  Stir before serving.  Leftovers can be refrigerated for a few days.

* I entered this post in this week’s Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, the Hearth and Soul Hop at Premeditated Leftovers, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, and Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Foods.

Pumpkin Breakfast Cakes (Gluten-Free)

A cake?  For breakfast?  Now before you decide I’ve gone off the deep end of decadence, consider: (1) This recipe started out as a pancake recipe but the texture just didn’t lend itself to pancake-ness.  They were super moist and delicious but any attempt at flipping them ended in inevitable disaster.  (2) According to their name, pancakes are really just cakes made in a pan instead of an oven.

So I reworked the recipe a bit and made my very first breakfast cake.  It’s made with whole grain brown rice flour and contains a good dose of vitamins and fiber from the pumpkin.  Now about the pumpkin…I roasted my own small pie pumpkin (more detailed instructions here) and then blended to flesh to make my pumpkin puree.  Until recently, I was adamant that I would never do this.  Opening a can was just too easy and I didn’t see the point in adding extra step to my baking.  Then I heard about a research study in which participants who ate one cup of canned soup per day for a few weeks had a 1,221% (!) increase in BPA in their urine samples (here is a NY Times article summarizing the study).

To remind you, BPA is the substance that has been banned from use in baby bottles because of its ability to disrupt normal endocrine activity and its effects on fetal and infant brain development.  Data about BPA’s effects in adults is still inconclusive, but many health-conscious people are trying to limit their exposure.  And since I subscribe to the “better paranoid than sorry” theory, I’m working to reduce my reliance on canned foods, since BPA is often used in the lining.  If you do use canned pumpkin for this recipe, see if you can find a company the uses BPA-free cans.

So with that, on to the recipe!

Pumpkin Breakfast Cakes
makes 4 individual cakes

Ingredients
-1 cup brown rice flour (I used sprouted brown rice flour)
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup milk of your choice
- 1 egg
- maple syrup to serve

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease 4 oven-safe ramekins.  In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

2. Whisk melted butter, honey, pumpkin puree, and milk together in a separate bowl.  Add the egg and whisk until incorporated.

3. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and mix well.  Divide the batter between the 4 ramekins, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.

4. Top with syrup and eat with a smile.  You’re havin’ cake for breakfast!  :)

*This recipe was entered in this week’s Melt in Your Mouth Monday at Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms, Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Foods, Gluten-free Wednesdays at the Gluten-Free Homemaker, and the These Chicks Cooked blog party.