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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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 

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.

 
 

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