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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hazelnut pumpkin cake + nutella frosting

This is a holiday cake built to impress. A spicy pumpkin cake with a creamy nutella buttercream frosting and roasted hazelnut topping. People will be so happy they invited you to their holiday party.  

hazelnut pumpkin cake + nutella frosting

double hazelnut pumpkin cake (with nutella) 

This has been adapted from cooking classy's pumpkin cake and a little inspiration from Sally's Baking Blog Nutella Frosting

ingredients
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 cups sugar ( I like to use sugar in the raw)
3/4 cup dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, soft/room temp
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk

frosting
3/4 cup butter, soft/room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 - 4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of cream or milk
1/2 cup nutella
1/2 cup hazelnuts (roasted for 5 mins while the cake is baking)

instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. This recipe fills three, 9-inch cake pans. Or you can make a smaller 6 inch cake and cupcakes (that is what I did). Just make sure to not over fill your cake pans as the dough will rise! Butter your cake pans well. 
2. Mix together all your dry ingredients except the sugars.
3. In another large bowl, mix together the butter and sugars, then add your oil, eggs, and vanilla. Then add the pumpkin and milk to the sugar mix. (Note - it is freaking amazing if you use actual roasted pumpkin here, but for use mere mortals, the canned stuff will do fine :) 
4. Slowly, add the flour mix to the butter/sugar pumpkin bowl. 
5. Pour into the cake pans and bake for 30-35min until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool.
6. To make the frosting use room temp butter add the nutella, then add the powdered sugar, I use a Cuisinart Hand Mixer that I love. Frost your cake only when is is completely cold! Roughly chop half of your hazelnuts to add to the top.

 

wild chanterelle breakfast tart

I went mushroom hunting. If I allowed myself to use exclamation points on this site, there would be a lot in this post. After two years of living in Portland, I am officially a Pacific Northwesterner. I left the trail, got dirty and freaking foraged for my dinner. Here is my gorgeous creation to prove it: A chanterelle breakfast tart. To be perfectly honest, I was going for a galette but ended up with the flat, open-faced tart (almost pizza-like) configuration. My official taste tester gave this a very strong rating.   

 
wild chanterelle breakfast tart
 

what the outdoors can teach you about mindfulness

What surprised and completely delighted me about mushroom hunting was that I experienced the forest in a totally different way than when I’ve been on typical hikes. You are literally forced to pay much closer attention to the details, colors and textures all around you if you want to have any chance at spotting a mushroom.  My life motto is now: “you won’t find any mushrooms unless you pay attention”. If you aren’t really paying attention to the present moment you won’t get the full pleasure out of any activity you are engaged in weather that is a stroll,  chatting with a friend, rocking out to Drake, or eating lunch on a Tuesday.

When you apply this lesson in attention to eating you, can see very quickly how it can enhance your experience. I really don’t want to say ‘look deeply’ at your food, because it sounds pretty cheesy, but that is exactly what I want you to do. Next time you sit down for a meal notice the textures, the details, the colors, and the smell. 

mushroom hunting oregon chanterelle
mushroom hunting oregon
mushroom hunting oregon
mushroom hunting oregon
mushroom hunting chanterelle
wild chanterelle breakfast tart mushrooms

wild chanterelle breakfast tart

ingredients
7-10 small and medium chanterelle mushrooms* 
1/2 medium red onion chopped into slivers
1 garlic clove minced
1 teaspoon of olive oil
3-5 ounces of spinach
1 cup whole ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
*(swap in your favorite mushrooms if you don't have an afternoon to hike around the pacific northwest scouring the forest for mushrooms)

tart crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces butter, very cold
1⁄2 cup ice cold water

instructions
1. Make the galette crust by first combining the flour and salt. (Pro-tip: keeping the flour and bowl very cold can help with the crust end-result). Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal - work as quickly as you can so that the butter does not warm up. Add the ice water and form the dough gently until it comes together - DON'T OVERMIX (#1 pasty rule) Wrap the dough ball in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes (or you can be like me and make multiple batches to freeze up to three months)

2. Sautee the garlic and onions in olive oil for about 5 min until soft. Then add in the spinach and mushrooms, add a pinch of salt. The goal here is to heat the veggies just enough so they lose most of their water, about 3-4mins

3. Roll out the crust, mix cheeses together with a little salt and pepper. Add the cheese mixture to the pastry crust. Then add on the mushroom mixture.

4. Bake the tart at 375F for 15 mins, then crack an egg on top, cook for another 10-15 min until the crust is brown and the egg has cooked all the way through! 

Other Recipes from Chew and Taste that might interest you: Brussel Sprout Mini Galettes or Two Potato Rosemary Tart 

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.

pumpkin funfetti cake + treat yourself challenge

Please forgive me if every dessert on my blog from here on incorporates funfetti. The reason I like sprinkles is the same reason I like champagne, their mere presence calls for a celebration. That is what this cake is all about. Rich, spicy pumpkin cake with cool cream cheese frosting and crunchy candy sprinkles to top it off.  

pumpkin funfetti cake mindful eating
pumpkin funfetti cake mindful eating
funfetti pumpkin cake

you should eat cake 

This might come as a shock but mindful eating does not mean you can only eat local kale. In fact the philosophy is that nothing is off limits, instead, the focus is to joyfully take pleasure in a huge range of foods. Eat cake, please! Just pay attention while you are doing it, allow yourself to take pleasure in every bite. Focus on what makes your body feel good. Intuitively our bodies can tell us when they've had enough. One small piece of cake might give you a tiny sugar buzz, on the other hand, eating a whole tub of frosting may cause your stomach to freak out . When you are full, stop and take a moment to be grateful that someone made you a god dang gorgeous cake. My advice is to put away your distractions, eat slowly, and give the cake all the attention it deserves. 

mindful treat-yo-self challenge 

Try this as a fun treat-yo-self moment: take 10 mins just to eat a piece of cake and do nothing else. Set the timer on your phone, and really extend the experience. Try to do this when you are actually hungry, I don't know about you but in my experience being hungry usually makes things taste awesome. Pretend that you are a professional taste tester and have to submit a detailed taste review of this piece of cake (or an equivalently decadent treat) to a magazine. Compared to standing in the kitchen, texting, and scarfing it down in 2 minutes, my guess is the treat-yo-self way will be more satisfying. But don't take my word try it yourself!   

pumpkin funfetti cake

This has been adapted from Cooking Classy. I also have to give a general shout out to Molly from my name is yeh for just generally making funfetti cool again. Check out her gorgeous version of this here

ingredients
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 cups sugar ( I like to use sugar in the raw)
3/4 cup dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, soft/room temp
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk

frosting
12 oz. cream cheese, soft/room temp
3/4 cup butter, soft/room temp
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 - 5 cups powdered sugar
rainbow sprinkles to taste (maybe 1/2 cup or more if you want to get crazy)

instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. This fills three, 9-inch cake pans. Or you can make a smaller cake and cupcakes (that is what I did). Just make sure to not over fill your cake pans as the dough will rise! Butter your cake pans. 

2. Mix together all your dry ingredients except the sugars.
3. In another large bowl, mix together the butters and sugars, then add the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Then add the pumpkin and milk to the wet mix. (Note - it is freaking amazing if you use actual roasted pumpkin here, but for use mere mortals, the canned stuff will do fine :) 
4. Slowly, add the flour mix to the butter/sugar pumpkin bowl. 
5. Pour into the cake pans and bake for 30-35min until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool. Frost. Add Sprinkles.

decorating pro tips
1. The most important thing is to make sure your cake cools down. Cover in plastic wrap right away out of the oven and pop it in the fridge or freezer for 15 mins, this helps retain moisture if you do it right away. 
2. To learn how to get the cake frosted very evenly, there are A LOT of youtube videos out there for you. But the short summary is: you cut off the 'cake dome' a very thin layer off the top to make a flat surface. Next you frost a very thin 'crumb' layer around the outside, after that you put the cake back in the fridge for 15 mins and only then do you frost the outside of the cake. If you have a turntable and a frosting spatula, you can make this sucker real strait!