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.

Cream Scones for a Potluck

It’s been almost a week since I’ve been able to post here.  The semester is coming to a close and has thrown my lovely school-life equilibrium out of balance.  I’m not complaining though because after this Wednesday, I’m completely free for a whole month!  I have big plans for all the non-school-related books I’m going to read, dishes I’m going to make, and, sadly, apartment maintenance I’m going to do.  Having a huge amount of work to do (do you know how many drugs there are to learn about? do you?) is certainly not as crazy-making when there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel.

I decided to take a quick study break to tell you about the lovely scones I made for our end-of-clinicals potluck.  Each student on our unit was assigned to bring some kind of goodie to thank all the nurses who have guided us throughout the semester and put up with our general cluelessness.  Now, I look at potlucks as a great excuse to make something much more decadent than I would normally be able to handle at home.  It makes others happy and saves me from too much gluttony at home.  And since clinicals start at 0645 and breakfast items were in order, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try a cream scone recipe I ran across on Smitten Kitchen about a month ago.  She had altered the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s to use cranberries but I decided that I’d prefer currants.  Take your pick according to what moves you.  One thing I like about this recipe is that it doesn’t involve a lot of  sugar.  The sugar in the dough is minimal and I decided to top them with a little extra to give them a satisfying sweet and crunchy top.  I used regular granulated sugar but I have a hunch that sugar with bigger crystals (something like Sugar in the Raw) would be even better.  Nonetheless, they got rave reviews and were the first item at the potluck to be completely devoured.

Now, go forth and spoil your co-workers!

Cream Scones with Currants
makes 8 scones

Ingredients:
– 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 3 tablespoons sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
– 1/2 cup currants
– 1 cup heavy cream

1. Heat oven to 425F.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in your food processor bowl and pulse several times until well mixed.  Add butter pulse about 12 times until the mixture resembles course meal.  Transfer into a bowl.

3. Add currants to the mixture in the bowl and fold in until they are uniformly mixed in.  Stir in the heavy cream and mix until a dough forms.  You may need to use your hands to knead in any loose, dry bits.

4. Press the dough into an 8-inch cake pan and then turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Alternatively, you could eyeball it and form an 8-inch disc of dough on the work surface.  Cut into 8 wedges and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet.  (Try running your knife under a little water before cutting the wedged to keep the dough from sticking to it.)

5. Sprinkle the wedges with extra sugar and bake until light brown, 12-15 minutes.

This recipe was my entry for the Weekend Gourmet Blog Carnival at Hartke is Online and Melt in Your Mouth Monday at Make Ahead Meals, and Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

Pumpkin Power Breakfasts

Breakfast is definitely my favorite meal.  There are so many ways to do it well without spending a lot of time in the kitchen and buying expensive ingredients.  Seriously, the same meal invented omelets, oatmeal, AND smoothies?!  Genius.  I’ve been known to eat breakfast-y items for every meal of the day.  And I’m ok with that.

In honor of fall, I decided to try a couple new pumpkin-infused breakfast bowls this week.  The first is a pumpkin pudding inspired by a recipe I saw at Spinach and Yoga.  It looked like just the thing to help me break out of my oatmeal rut.  The second was a magical amalgamation of my favorite Rice Porridge bowl and aforementioned pumpkin pudding.  Both are recipes I will be returning to for sustenance and comfort as my midterm exams draw near this and next week.

Pumpkin Pudding
serves 1
(Chia seeds won’t digest well unless they’re allowed to soak in liquid before consumption.  Plan to make this at least an hour before you plan to eat it; overnight is best.)
Ingredients

- 1 cup pureed pumpkin (I used canned)
– 1 cup almond milk
– 1 1/2 Tbs chia seeds
– 1 Tbs ground flax seeds
– 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder
– generous sprinkles of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– a handful of raisins
– a few walnuts (optional)
– agave or maple syrup (optional)

1.  Blend pumpkin, almond milk, chia and flax seeds, protein powder, spices and vanilla extract until ingredients are well incorporated.  Scoop into bowl, mix in raisins and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

2.  When you’re ready to eat, heat in the microwave for about a minute until warm.  Garnish with walnuts and agave, if desired.

 

Pumpkin Power Porridge
serves 1, generously

Ingredients
– 1/4 cup brown rice cereal (directions for making your own here)
– 1 cup water
– 1 banana, mashed well
– 1/4 c pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
– 1/2 scoop of your favorite protein powder (optional)
– a handful of raisins
– a few dashes each of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 Tbs ground flax seeds

1. Mix all ingredients except flax in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook stirring frequently until rice is softened, about 10 minutes.

2. Top with flax.

 

Breakfast Porridge

The cold weather is definitely here and, with it, a change in my breakfast routine.  During the summer months, I am a huge fan of smoothies packed to the brim with fruits and vegetables.  With the chill in the air now, a big cold glass of anything seems unappetizing.  These days, it’s all about the rice porridge.  This is similar in texture to Cream of Wheat but it’s a much healthier whole grain option.  I made mine by simply grinding short grain brown rice in the dry container of my Vitamix, but you could definitely buy the exact same thing pre-ground for you (Bob’s Red Mill is a good option).

I’m the kind of person who starts looking forward to the next day’s breakfast before I even get to bed.  The plan for this recipe came together as I was drifting off to sleep.  I knew I wanted something sweet, warm, and comforting.  The next morning as the rice porridge was heating and softening on the stove and I was happily mashing a banana, I came to a realization.  “Oh!  I’m making BABY FOOD right now!”  Which kind of makes sense, as cold weather makes me regress to a much earlier stage of development in a real Freudian kind of way.  All I want is food, sleep, and blankets.  If you feel the same way, this breakfast might be just the thing.

Breakfast Porridge
serves 1

Ingredients
– 1/4 c brown rice cereal (see directions for making your own below)
– 1 1/4 c water
– 1 banana (over-ripe is best)
– 2 Tbs raisins
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– a few dashes of cinnamon
– 6 walnut halves
– 1/2 Tbs coconut oil (or butter)

1. If you are making your own rice cereal, put a few cups of your favorite style of brown rice into the dry container of a high-powered blender.  I’ve heard that a coffee grinder can also work and so might a food processor.  Set to medium high and allow rice to be ground down to the desired consistency.  It should be similar in grain to sand.  I let mine go for about 10 seconds and then gave it some additional pulses.

2.  Cook the rice and water over medium-high heat until soft, about 5-7 minutes.  While it’s cooking, mash the banana and add to the pot along with the raisins, vanilla and cinnamon.  Mix well.

3.  Scoop into your breakfast bowl and top with coconut oil or butter and walnuts.