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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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.

two potato rosemary tart + multisensory eating

This tart is a perfect hearty fall meal. It combines sweet potatoes and purple potatoes and lots of fresh rosemary. Despite how freaking fancy it looks, it is surprisingly easy and quick to make. If you aren't comfortable making your own crust, you really should give it a try, a couple of attempts and you'll be a pro in no time at all. 

...drumroll I give you.... my two potato tart. A little reminder of the simple joy of cooking and creating something beautiful. 

the whole experience of eating   

What is going on around you when you eat plays a huge role in how you experience the taste and satisfaction of a meal. I've always been a little obsessive about setting the table for dinner, dimming the lights, putting on some music, lighting a candle. Wow, now that I write that down it's strangely similar to the steps one might take in say seduction ... interesting.... But seriously, paying a little attention to your surroundings and presentation honors the food, the work of many who've made your meal possible, and it shows respect for yourself to slow down and appreciate the beauty of mealtime. I'm going to give you a quote from an article I read this week that I'm about to recommend: 

"Alongside sex, eating is one of the most multisensory of our activities .....In most cases at least half of our experience of food and drink is determined by the forgotten flavor senses of vision, sound, and touch"

If you are trying to eat more mindfully I recommend taking a few steps to bring a little extra pizazz to your table.  Do this especially if you are eating alone, bring in a flower or greenery from outside, light a candle, these simple notions can remind you to savor the beauty around you.

what is she reading 

I have to recommend you read this article: Accounting For Taste from the New Yorker's Food Issue this last week.  The article profiles Charles Spence a researcher investigating what he calls multisensory integration in eating, which is basically the interplay between taste and your other senses, touch, sound, smell and sight. A couple of findings from his research: 

"a strawberry-flavored mousse tastes ten per cent sweeter when served from a white container rather than a black one...adding two and a half ounces to the weight of a plastic yogurt container makes the yogurt seem about twenty-five per cent more filling"

To my disappointment, so far this research has mostly been used by packaged goods companies to sell more processed foods. However, the applications are potentially broad and the research itself is a valuable appreciation for the multisensory experience of eating. Enjoy! Here is the link: Accounting For Taste

two potato tart sweet potato purple
rosemary
two potato tart
potatoes

two potato rosemary tart

This has been adapted from: smitten kitchen Thanks Deb, your rule.

ingredients
servings: 4
time:  1.5-2 hours (mostly waiting for the tart to bake)

2 medium sweet potatoes  
2 medium purple potatoes (red potatoes will do here if you can't find purple)
1/2 cup plain yogurt or heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound gruyere shredded (or cheddar or mozzarella will do)
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

Tart Crust
6 tablespoons cold butter, diced into small pieces
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

directions

savory tart crust
Combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender in very tiny pieces. If you don't have this tool you can use two knives to cut the butter. Next, add the egg to your flour and mix everything with a fork until a dough forms. If you are having trouble mixing, a little kneading on your counter should do the trick.  

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove any air bubbles. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Now you can add your filling

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

First you need to pre-cook the potatoes slightly before baking them in the tart. You can do this in one of two ways, the tastier way is to bring a pot of water to boil and simmer them whole for about 10 mins, and then pat dry. Or if you're in a pinch for time, you could microwave the potatoes for about 3-5mins per potato until just tender (but not mushy!)  After the potatoes are soft, slice them into thin (about 1/4-inch) rounds, I like to use my mandolin for this to get them nice and thin.

Arrange the potatoes in the tart shell into a fantastic design of your choosing, here you can see I alternated the purple/sweet potatoes into two big circles. Mix the yogurt or heavy cream with the egg and pour into tart shell. Sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes. Add the herbs about 30 mins into baking.  In total bake 45-50 minutes, until bubbly and brown.

 
 

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!

 

spring roll salad + lime almond dressing + salad satisfaction

This Vietnamese inspired dish packs all the colors and crunch of a fresh spring roll in a bright salad with an almond-butter lime dressing. I just got back from my honeymoon in Vietnam and I was so impressed and inspired by how fresh and filled with herbs every dish was.  The Vietnamese pay so much attention to the colors and presentation of food. We witnessed carrot flowers, gorgeous garnishes, and amazing plating everywhere, even street vendors care about presentation! Have fun with this one, I'm particularly proud of the dressing because I've always struggled to produce a peanut dipping sauce that I'm proud of. This one is adapted with a little more lime and soy sauce to be light enough to cover the whole salad.  

Vietnamese Salad

Some pics from the trip... 

How To Eat A Salad and Feel Full = Eat it Mindfully 

Salads have a bad reputation, lets face it. Let's run through the normal insults, rabbit food, diet food, 'girly' food, the list goes on. Bottom line, if you are like me, you probably sit down to a salad with a mix of delight AND a little voice that says "I am not going to be fully satisfied". We'll I am officially against that sentiment, I truly believe a fresh, colorful salad can absolutely rock my world. However you do have to approach it with a different MINDSET. 

a different salad mindset

Let's strip away all of those preconceived notions and judgement about salad and sit down with this one in front of you, right now. You will get yourself into a world of trouble, and ultimately not fully appreciate or enjoy your salad if you think "I have to eat this to lose weight' or 'I'm eating this salad because its is necessary so I can eat what I really want pizza and brownies later'.

Let's concentrate on this moment. This spring roll salad (or whatever version is in front of you) is a bounty of crunchy flavors, sweet and complex. One tenant of mindful eating I always like to remind myself of is: Eat for the present moment, what foods are going to make your body feel great right now?  Its hard to feel bloated or over stuffed after eating a veggie salad. Most people feel pretty energized and frankly awesome. Try these tips:

  • Take in the colors. Spend a couple of deep breathes before you eat this salad and just appreciate the colors before you. It is amazing how something this simple can help you get more satisfaction out of a meal  
  • Take at least 20 minutes to eat your salad
  • Appreciate your salad noises: here is a sense you don't think about with eating very much, sound! Make it a game to be so present when eating this salad you pay attention to all your chewing and all the sounds this crunchy dish makes as you enjoy it. 

 

ingredients 

Spring Roll Salad
2 handfuls of spinach
1/3 head of red cabbage
1 orange pepper
1 small spicy red pepper (i used a Jamaican cherry)
2 ears of sweet corn

Lime Almond Dressing
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 very juicy lime
1/2 cup almond butter  
1 tablespoon of garlic chili sauce

Final Touches
2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
1 big bunch of basil
1/4 cup almonds (freshly roasted and chopped finely)

instructions

I'm tempted to just let you guess on this one. Just kidding, but really its very easy. The way I did this was I roasted the corn and almonds in the oven for about 10 mins. I chopped up the cabbage and peppers very finely, then cut the corn off the cob, and cut the basil into small strips using scissors (this is a great tip to keep your basil super flavorful!!) Mix all your veggies together, then all the ingredients for the dressing, add the finishing touches, toss and enjoy! 

butternut squash w/ crispy rosemary beets and quinoa

This is a super simple veggie packed meal combining a lot of different textures and flavors. Great in the fall when you can find amazing squash and beets fresh and local. I've gotten the comment that 'a butternut squash is magic in my hands' but I think whoever said that doesn't realize that cumin is actually my secret ingredient to make everything delicious.  

butternut squash quinoa and rosemary

the harvest   

An important element to mindful eating is truly appreciating where your food came from. The forces of nature: water, soil, sun, and all of the people involved in getting ingredients to your plate. The fall is such a perfect time to practice gratitude because you can't help but be hit over the head with the amount of beautiful vegetables and fruits ripening. Tips for staying mindful with this meal:

- Take a moment before you dive in to think about all the people and forces of nature that made your plate possible.
- Express one element you are grateful for in regards to this meal. It will add a lot of joy and overall feeling of contentedness to your experience. 

beets in a bowl

3 small-medium beets
1 small butternut squash (peeled, and diced)
3-5 cups of veggie soup stock (or bouillon) 
1 clove garlic
1/2 tablespoon of fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 cup quinoa
1 large spring of rosemary
1 handful of basil (cut into strips)
olive oil, salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel the beets and cut into thin rounds, either with a mandolin or sharp knife. I recommend not too thin because they have a tendency to burn. Coat with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and lay out individually on a baking pan. Cook for about 15 mins and turn the pieces over, cook for another 15 mins w/the rosemary added. Really here you have to watch to make sure they don't burn because cooking time will depend on how thin your pieces are.

Peel, remove the seeds, and dice the squash into inch cubes or smaller. Add the garlic, ginger and some olive oil to a deep frying pan or pot. Saute for about 3 mins then add the stock, squash, and cumin and cover the pan. Simmer on medium heat for about 20 mins or until the pieces are soft. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and use a masher, or large fork to cream the squash. Leave some pieces semi in-tact to create a chunkier consistency. 

Meanwhile cook the quinoa according to the package directions. To plate spoon a large portion of squash, add the quinoa, and then fan out the beet chips. Add cut basil and freshly ground pepper to garnish.  

fall harvest cornbread cake

This dish is inspired by a Southwest camping trip through Arizona where corn is packed into every dish and cumin is king.  I was camping there and the idea of adding vegetables to cornbread struck me, I'll admit, mainly out of necessity to combine the very few ingredients we had in our possession.  

You’ll be surprised by how satisfied you are before you even take a bite

Now, fast forward to a Portland fall farmers markets. After an August of intense traveling coming back to a slow Saturday morning roaming the market is a dream. I love the mini eggplants each little bite adds so much color and texture, mix it with fresh sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, and crunchy cornbread and you've got yourself hit. 

Mindful Eating Notes

The main suggestion I have for eating this dish mindfully is use your sense of smell! With the amount of rosemary and basil I recommend for this dish, the baking process will absolutely fill up your kitchen with so many lovely and enticing smells. Enjoy the whole cooking process by really noticing and enjoying the smell, let it fill you up and satisfy you  as well. Take in three deep breathes every couple of minutes including right before you sit down . You'll be surprised by how satisfied you are before you even take a bite! 

Cornbread Base
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1⁄4 cup butter (melted) 
1 1⁄2 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup white sugar + 2 tablespoons of raw sugar for texture
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Veggie Topping
2 cups cherry tomatoes, 
2 cups mushrooms,
1 carton of mini eggplants (about 10)
2 ears of fresh sweet corn
3/4 cup of sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
2-3 large springs of rosemary
1/2 cup of basil
cumin
olive or coconut oil / salt /pepper

*optional: 1/2 cup of cheddar or parmesean cheese 

The first thing to do here is preheat the oven to 350 and cut up the eggplant to small pieces, toss with coconut or olive oil and cumin, and start those puppies roasting in the oven on a baking sheet or pie dish. Roast those for about 30-40mins total until very soft, while you are doing this throw in your ears or corn for 5 mins, enough to soften just a little  so you can cut the kernels off the ear. 

While the eggplant is roasting, cut all your other veggies (your tomatoes and mushrooms, and corn) into small pieces and saute lightly with salt. This is mainly to drain excess water, add a generous helping of cumin to this mix as well. 

Next, make the cornbread base by mixing the milk, eggs, butter together, then adding the dry ingredients. Add the mixture to a buttered pie pan (or muffin tins)  then  add the veggie mixture on top. Bake for about 10 min then add the cheese and rosemary, bake for another 10 min and add the fresh basil at the very end. Tip: cut basil with scissors! (I wish someone told me that a long time ago, just try it)