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!  

Related Recipes From Chew and Taste

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orecchiette with kale + balsamic coconut dressing

I recently discovered a flavor combination I can't get enough of, you really have to try this it tastes phenomenal : mix melted coconut oil, balsamic vinegar, and pasta! This is a perfect, "I haven't gone grocery shopping for a while' kind of meal, because turns out that coconut oil, balsamic vinegar, and pasta are pretty shelf stable. I added some farmer's market kale and zucchini to give the dish some crunch and color.  I would venture to guess that there are many other vegetable combinations that would taste amazing in this dish as well. This is a super simple meal, really only 5 ingredients.  The kale and squash were brought to you by Spring Hill Organic Farm . They kindly drive into Portland from Albany, Oregon to sell their beautiful vegetables, and I'm pretty happy about it.

pasta orecchiette with kale and balsamic coconut dressing, mindful eating

Mindful Eating Book Review - How To Eat - Thich Nhat Hanh

For those of you on this mindful eating journey with me, I thought I'd share one of my favorite books on the subject. It is a simple, short compliation of a few meditations on ways to think about cooking, shopping, and enjoying food. It has a focus on how mealtime can connect us with the ones we love, and how to really be satisfied from your experience of eating. It is simple bite size reminders to practice slowing down and being grateful for what is right in front of you. It also has that unmistakable Thich Nhat Hanh tone that makes you feel like you're getting a hug from your grandfather every time you open a new chapter. 

The thing I like the best about this book, is that mindful eating is difficult to keep up when your life gets busy and things distract you from staying present. While other books on the subject are long how-tos, this is easy to pick up and read a little each week to re-focus on mindfulness.  Here is a link: How to Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh  

pasta orecchiette with kale and balsamic coconut dressing, mindful eating

orecchiette with kale + balsamic coconut dressing

servings: 2-3
10 mins prep
15 mins cooking

ingredients
3-4 cups kale cut into long strips (Lacinato if possible - the one that looks like a dinosaur)
1 zucchini chopped into thin disks
8 oz orecchiette pasta
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (a sweeter thicker kind works best) 
*optional: goat cheese
*optional: red pepper flakes

directions
1. cook the pasta per the package directions, slightly on the al dente (underdone) side. Chop the vegetables. 
2.Add one tablespoon of the coconut oil to a large skillet and then the zucchini, cook on medium heat for about 2min, then add the kale and cook for about 4-6 minutes longer, stirring the vegetables frequently. The goal is to get them just slightly soft, but really you don't want to overcook these guys. 
3. Melt the rest of the coconut oil in the microwave and then add the balsamic. Put the dressing and pasta into the skillet, mix everything together and serve!

Want another coconut oil, balsamic vinegar dish? Check out my brussel sprout mini galettes w/balsamic caramelized leeks