the best sweet potato gnocchi + why mindful eating is hard

This sweet potato gnocchi captures precisely the kind of cooking I would like to inspire in the world. It is a really impressive dish, but with very simple ingredients and a fairly straightforward process. I really encourage you to try your hand at making gnocchi, once you do the process will speed up quite a bit!  This sweet potato gnocchi incorporates a tangy brown butter balsamic sauce with sweet shallots and a bright herby finish. 

the best sweet potato gnocchi
best sweet potato gnocchi
best sweet potato gnocchi


Why Mindful Eating is Hard – But Worth It

This past week a few of my friends in Portland told me, “Hey Emily I actually started trying to eat mindfully after reading your blog!” Up until this point I almost forgot people might actually take my advice.  

One friend’s story of trying to implement mindful eating resonated strongly with me and I think highlights why mindful eating can be hard to solidify as new habit. My friend (let’s call her Laura) said she loves the concept, but finds it really hard to actually remember to practice before every meal. Laura said it usually dawns on her to slow down and mindfully eat about halfway through dinner every night. She told me when she was growing up her family's style was to rush to the table and scarf down food as if running towards the finish line in a race. Eating fast is the way her grandparents ate as well, so rushing through a meal is a multi-generational, deeply entrenched pattern in her family. (I'm sure she is not alone in this! Hello welcome to my family midwest farmers living through the depression)

 The reality is that changing eating habits, or really any habits for that matter, is hard. Like anything worth doing, changing behavior to create more wellness in your life takes awareness, intention, and hard work.

The good news is thousands of people change their routines everyday, and we know a lot more today about what it really takes to change a habit than we did even ten years ago. I’ll get more into the science of habits in later posts, but for now let’s just look at Laura’s story and how mindfulness might help her achieve a little more calm and help her react out of intention vs. habit.

5 Minutes of Listening to the Chatter  

Let’s say Laura decided to start taking five minutes every morning to practice mindfulness. With this exercise every morning she learned to listen to her thoughts as an observer as they arose, and not react with judgement or get swept away with the implications, but simply she just noticed her thoughts as they appeared. If Laura did this every day for a couple of weeks she probably would get pretty good at focusing her attention and becoming more aware of her mind’s chatter once mealtime came around. She would be able to tease apart what is really happening in her mind and body and be able to separate the fact of: “I am physically hungry” from the emotional response “I need to eat as fast as I can or else all the food will be gone”.

How could focusing your attention inward help you bring more intentionality to your daily habits?

Okay on to this amazing gnocchi ...

the best sweet potato gnocchi ever

This recipe has been adapted closely from Adia Mollenkamp's just simplified a bit! But you should definitely check out her tips and tricks about this dish as well! 

Ingredients
1/4 pound Russet potatoes (cut in half lengthwise)
3/4 pounds sweet potatoes (cut in half lengthwise)
1 large egg
1 to 2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbls olive oil
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter
3 sprigs rosemary, and 3 sprigs thyme  
garnish of parmesan cheese

brown butter sauce
2 shallots sliced thinly
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Instructions
1. Preheat your oven to 425°F. Drizzle your potatoes with olive oil, and a little salt and then place them on a baking sheet, w/the cut-side down, and roast until tender enough to put a fork through, about 30-40 minutes.
2. Once they have cooled down a little, run the potato flesh (w/out skins)* through a potato ricer (or if you don't have one a potato masher or large fork will work) and in the egg, and add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a dough forms. *( I recommend keeping the potato skins for a delicious snack the next day :) 
3.  To know how much flour to use, add flour until the dough is moist but not sticky. My advice is, if this is your first time and you are in doubt, err on the side of adding more flour (I had a royal flop when I didn't add enough, so I'm sensitive) 
4. On a floured clean surface, divide the dough into about 8 equal pieces. Rolling each individual piece into a rope ( 1/2 inch in diameter).
5. Cut each rope into many 1/2 -inch gnocchi sized pieces. 
6. Bring a big ol' pot of salted water to a gentle boil over medium heat. Working in batches, simmer the gnocchi for about 5 minutes, wait just a minute or so past when they float to the surface of the water. Using a slotted spoon to scoop out and place the gnocchi on a baking sheet. Reserve about 1/4 a cup of the gnocchi cooking water.

For the sauce: 
7. In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it starts foaming, add your sliced shallots and, watching it carefully allow the butter to start to brown, be stirring to ensure the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Next add your chopped rosemary and thyme.

8. When the butter is brown, remove your pan from the stove, and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Stir in gnocchi and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, return to heat, and cook until just coated in the sauce. Finish with your cheese garnish and salt and pepper to taste!  

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chocolate banana raspberry nice cream

I'm going to write a quick post here, because I'm in grad school and #busy. However, I can't help but share this lovely, healthy treat with you all. This is a super simple chocolate ice cream creation where blended frozen bananas are the leading ladies. This is similar to the blackberry version of 'nice cream' I wrote about earlier this year, however after a little tweaking and testing various configurations ( I'm embarrassed to say there was an attempt with baileys liquor) this is so far my absolute favorite.

chocolate banana raspberry nice cream
chocolate banana raspberry nice cream

chocolate banana raspberry nice cream

ingredients
2 ripe bananas that have been frozen for 4+ hours  
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup almond milk (or regular)

*optional toppings
frozen raspberries
coconut flakes

instructions

Note: I used my nutribullet (this post is not sponsored by them because well, I'm #smalltime). But I do highly recommend this device in the kitchen. I use it for smoothies, pesto, soups, and blended cocktails!)

1. Freeze your overripe bananas right when they are getting brown and spotty on the outside, using them at this stage will really sweeten the deal.
2.Peel and cut the bananas into small pieces and put into a tupperware or wrap in parchment paper and put into a ziplock bag. Freeze for at least four hours. 
3.After freezing, separate the banana pieces as much as you can before blending with the almond milk, if the blender stalls, add a little more milk, or let the bananas thaw slightly.

Next, add the cocoa powder and peanut butter. This is by far the best right away, but you totally can stick it back into the freezer for later, just let it thaw for 5-10mins before digging in!

loaded red pepper soup

This roasted red pepper soup is both creamy and bright and loaded with cumin crusted chickpeas and cabbage to make it an entire meal. It's November and red peppers still have a strong showing the Portland farmers markets, I for one am impressed. Over the last couple of months I've become a little obsessed with roasting vegetables, it sounds so simple but in my opinion it enhances the flavor a huge amount in comparison to sauteing or pan frying. This soup is proof, taking the extra 15 mins to roast these puppies in the oven is what makes this dish awesome.   

loaded red pepper soup

mindful eating tips

This might be a good time to refer you to the basics behind mindful eating. If you haven't checked them out,  here are the six principles you can practice before eating in order to bring more awareness and attention into mealtime:

1. Breathe
2. Put Away Distractions
3. Assess Hunger
4. Observe
5. Chew
6. Slow Down

 You can learn more about each step, and links to more resources here on my site. 

loaded red pepper soup

ingredients
4 large red bell peppers
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots
4 tablespoon cumin
3 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese (*don't include for the vegan option)
1 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper
1 can chickpeas
2 cups red cabbage 

instructions
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Cut your red peppers in half and take out the seeds (cut so that two halves are identical)  
Place the red bell peppers on a baking sheet with the cut sides facing down, and drizzle with olive oil.
Roast the peppers for 20-30 minutes until blackened on the top.
While the peppers are roasting start chopping the rest of the vegetables
Remove the peppers from the oven and immediately cover them in tinfoil, this steams the peppers. 
Turn the oven down to 350F, and toss the chopped cabbage and chickpeas in 2 tablespoons cumin and black pepper, put them on a baking pan and roast for 5 mins
Soup
Put onions, garlic and olive oil in a large pot and simmer over medium heat. After 5 mins add the soup stock chopped carrots, cumin, thyme and the red peppers. NOTE: the peppers should have now 'steamed' for about 5-10mins total and *remove charred red pepper skin* before adding the the soup.

Let simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are softened through. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup mixture smooth. (or a regular blender) 
Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Add the roasted chickpeas and cabbage, enjoy! This soup keeps well in the fridge or freezer for leftovers.

spicy butternut squash + carrot soup + spooning tips

This is my go-to crowd pleaser butternut squash soup. Very easy to make, versatile and packs so much delicious goodness. My secret is adding in a TON of ginger to make the soup really pop with flavor and spiciness. 

spicy butternut squash soup

I generally always like to keep a butternut squash around. Besides the beautiful big yellow gourd always staring me down, frankly a squash nearby just makes me feel comfortable.  I know people can get hung up on squash because it does take a couple of steps to get to usable chopped segments. However I would say, it is worth it every time, and after a little concerted practice, the peeling de-seeding and chopping can speed up significantly. I recommend a strong vegetable peeler, a sturdy spoon to scrape the inside contents, and a sharp large knife for chopping. 

spooning tip

Do you find it hard to slow down during a meal? Put your spoon down in between bites! Use this pause to help you slow down and finish savoring and tasting your last bite. You can also use this little pause to take a moment to take a deep breath and re-focus on the present moment and your experience of eating. 

butternut squash soup with carrots and ginger

Ingredients
-1 small-medium butternut squash
-1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
- 2 -3 medium carrots
- 3 (or more) tablespoons of finely chopped ginger
- 1/2 tablespoon cumin
- 6 cups vegetable soup stock

Garnish
-blue cheese, sesame seeds, red pepper chili flakes

Instructions
in a large pot simmer the ginger and oil on low heat for 3 minutes, then add the chopped carrots and butternut squash. Let all the ingredients simmer on medium heat for about 30mins or until soft. Make sure the soup stock level is at or slightly above the vegetable pieces. Use an immersion blender to  mix all the ingredients.  Garnish and enjoy!