Late night study snack – Spicy sweet potato fries with vegan curry cashew cream

chilisweetpotatofriesandcurrycreamsauceThe life of a working grad student is certainly not a luxurious one.  Long days, late nights, and a hectic schedule are a daily occurrence. It is easy to fall into a rut with food choices when your mind is occupied by exam dates and papers that are due. Sometimes all you want is something quick and easy. But I’ve found that if you think outside of the box a little bit, items that on the surface may seem time consuming and difficult to make, can actually fit into your schedule pretty nicely.

Last night when I got home from class, I knew I was in for a late evening. I had a film to watch, a paper to write about the film and other general homework assignments that are due each week. Yes, I procrastinated, it happens. I knew I would want a late night snack to get me through the night, and nighttime is when my sweet tooth kicks in the worst. My solution: sweet potatoes.  They’re sweet and creamy and I love to add another dimension with a hint of spice.  Cut them up into fries and they’re the perfect snacking food.  And of course, every fry needs a dipping sauce; it’s pretty much a rule.  I have been experimenting with vegan cashew cream sauces, and I wanted to try a different spin on one this time…curry.  For me, nothing says comfort like warming spices, and with the season of cool, dark nights upon us, spicy sweet potato fries and a curry cream sauce makes perfect sense.

This is one of my recipes that has quick, easy prep, and gives you time to be productive while it does the hard part all by itself.  I got home, turned the oven on, sliced, tossed and threw in the sweet potatoes, put some cashews in a bowl of water and got to my homework.  When I was ready for a break from my assignments, my snack was ready for its final finishing touches.  I then promptly devoured it as I got back to my late night of studying.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

2 small or 1 medium to large sweet potato

1 TBS olive oil

Cinnamon – to taste

Chili powder – to taste

Sprinkle of salt

Raw vegan curry cashew cream

½ cup raw, organic, cashews

¼ cup water

½ -1 tbs lemon juice

½ teaspoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon dried basil

To start: preheat the oven to 400 and put the cashews in a bowl of water to soak for at least 30 minutes

  • Cut the sweet potato(es) into long fry-like pieces.  I like mine to have some crunch, so I cut them on the thinner side.  A trick I use here is to cut the pieces at an angle, so one end gets crunchy while the other end has more potato to it.
  • Drizzle the olive oil, sprinkle on the cinnamon and chili powder to taste (I prefer a lot of cinnamon and only a little spice, so I do about ½-1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash to ¼  teaspoon of chili powder, but of course, adjust how you like it) and toss it all together to coat evenly
  • Spread out on a foil lined baking sheet in one layer and bake
  • Bake for 30-45 mins depending on how well you liked them cooked; toss the pieces about half way through to even out the cooking

To make the sauce:

  • Drain the soaked cashews and discard the soaking water
  • Put them in a blender or food processor with water, lemon juice and seasonings
  • Blend until creamy (you may want to add more water if it’s too thick)

Always TASTE your food as you cook!! Maybe you want more curry, or more lemon, or more cinnamon or more spice! …experiment until you find what balance is right for you!!

Advertisements

Baked Squash Stack with White Beans and Stewed Tomatoes

A little while back I had the pleasure of ‘talking food’ with one of my sister’s closest friends Emily and her husband Andy.  It’s not every day that I meet people who get excited about vegetables like I do, (and I completely plan to steal from their garden this summer 😉 haha).  But tonight’s recipe was inspired by them.  While we were swapping food favorites and looking through old pictures of dinners (because I’ve been taking pictures of my food long before I ever had a blog… I’m weird I know) Andy came across one that he immediately wanted the recipe for.  If you know me, or have read my blog before, then you are well aware that I am not good at recipe writing.  I also rarely make the same thing twice, partly for that reason.  However, I can always decipher what ingredients I had used in something and frankly, it’s more fun sometimes to use the same flavor profile but find new ways to re-invent it!!  This is a twist on the dinner that they saw and it came out delicious!!

Baked squash stack with white beans and stewed tomatoes

Baked Squash Stack with White Beans and Stewed Tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 medium yellow squash

1 medium zucchini (you can swap these two depending on which one you want more of; I just happened to have these quantities so I went with it!)

1 can organic cannellini beans (no salt)

1 can organic stewed tomatoes with Italian herbs

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Garlic powder

Italian seasoning

Directions:

  • Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and transfer them to a small bowl.  Using a fork, mash the beans into a chunky paste.
  • Also, drain the stewed tomatoes and put them in a separate bowl.  (squash give off a lot of liquid when they cook so you won’t need the extra from the tomatoes)
  • Slice your squash and zucchini into thin rounds, keeping them each in separate piles
  • Spray a baking dish (mine was 8×8) with non-stick spray and lay out an even layer of your first yellow squash in the bottom of the dish.
  • Season the layer with garlic powder and Italian seasoning
  • Take ½ of the mashed cannellini beans and dot it on top of the layer
  • Take ½ of the stewed tomatoes and using your fingers break them apart it into chunks, spreading it on top also.
  • Next, layer your zucchini and repeat the same seasoning steps followed by the remaining cannellini beans and stewed tomatoes.
  • Top with the final layer of yellow squash
  • Season with Italian seasoning and drizzle with 1 TBS of extra virgin olive oil to allow the top to brown up in the oven
  • Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until the squash are tender and cooked all the way through, test this by sticking a fork in it! (the bake time will vary depending on how thick or thin your rounds are and also the size of your baking dish)
  • Broil for a few minutes at the end to brown the top

Baked Squash Stack with White Beans and Stewed Tomatoes Overhead

Baked Squash Stack with White Beans and Stewed Tomatoes Sideview

I also think this dish would be amazing sprinkled with some fresh grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (but since I’m dairy free 😦 you’ll have to let me know!!!)

Don’t forget about winter…Balsamic Roasted Acorn Squash with a Walnut Raisin Quinoa

While the calendar says that it’s Spring, it certainly doesn’t feel like it yet in Connecticut.  Everyone seems to be upset about the cold weather lingering, but I know that when it’s gone, I’ll start to miss the little things about winter that make it so special… like warm cable knit sweaters and soft cozy scarves 😉 .  I find myself going full-on winter right before it starts to get warm again because I know I won’t be seeing some of these things for quite a while.  This is especially true for the food.  Winter a time for hearty soups, roasted vegetables, warm spices, and so much more.  I find myself wanting that “warm you from the inside out” style of cuisine to stay in season just a little bit longer.  So, tonight I wanted to make somewhat of a last goodbye to everything winter; a meal that would make you want to curl up by the fireplace with a blanket and a good book before its too late and Spring arrives.

Balsamic roasted acorn squash with walnut raisin quinoa

balsamic roasted acorn squash with walnut raisin quinoa

Acorn squash is one of those perfect vegetables that you can just throw in the oven, forget about for a while, and it gets delicious on its own!  Paired with the slightly sweet, nutty quinoa, and the tangy bold balsamic drizzle, this dish absolutely represents the warmth of winter comfort foods while still being healthy and nutritious!

To make the squash: I used one small acorn squash for this recipe, which was enough for me to have as dinner with leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F
  • Cut off and discard the ends of the squash, and then cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice the squash into about 3/4 inch pieces.
  • Toss the squash with a drizzle of EVOO , a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, thyme, and rosemary, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Roast for about 20-25 minutes, until the squash is cooked through and tender.

To make the quinoa:

  • Wash and add 1/2 cup quinoa to 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil and then cover and lower the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
  • Mix in 1/3 cup of raisins, 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts, and a good sprinkle of cinnamon to the hot quinoa.

To make a balsamic reduction: Simmer balsamic vinegar in a saucepan until it cooks down to your desired thickness (for this recipe I was impatient, so its not that thick 🙂 )

Arrange slices of roasted squash on the plate and top with a healthy scoop of the quinoa mix.  Dust the top with more cinnamon and drizzle the whole dish with your balsamic reduction. And there you have it! My don’t forget about winter, ode to the cozy season meal.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget…The Oven!

For a lot of people, the oven can evoke thoughts of baked goods like warm chocolate chip cookies and mom’s flaky pie crust, or bubbling cheeses and creamy casseroles.  Not exactly daily healthy foods. But the oven is one of my favorite modes of cooking.  Roasting, baking, broiling, braising…all amazingly simple ways to cook healthy foods.  The flavors become more concentrated and something like a sweet potato, that someone might normally throw a ton of butter or brown sugar on, if you roast them in the oven long enough, their own natural sugars start to caramelize and you don’t need all that extra stuff on top.  I usually just dash mine with some cinnamon and they’re good to go!

While it may seem like using the oven can take much longer than other ways to make food, that extra time is actually the best part about it!  You can essentially throw the food in the oven and continue to be productive around the house.  There’s no standing over the stove tossing or stirring.  Just be smart about planning your oven time and you’ll find that it can truly work in your favor.

A perfect example of this was my breakfast this morning.  I know, cooking breakfast? On a weekday? In the OVEN? Sounds crazy but its really not.  I was up at 6am to get to the gym and on my way home I was thinking about what to eat for breakfast.  I always have a smorgasbord or veggies in my fridge, always have eggs handy, so I decided to make some egg white muffins!  I’ll put the recipe in a separate post, but let me walk you through how easy this was.  I get home and turn the oven on.  While that’s preheating I grab a few veggies, chop them up; separate out my egg whites, and start assembling.  By that time the oven is pre-heated and I can just throw them in, set the timer and walk away! I was able to take a shower, and get completely ready for work while they were cooking.  The little delights ended up being ready about 10 minutes before I was going to leave so I took them out to cool off for a bit.  I tossed two of the muffins in a ziplock baggie on my way out the door, and breakfast is served! Plus I have 2 leftover for tomorrows breakfast too!

So don’t forget… the oven doesn’t have to just mean desserts, or savory dinners.  The oven is a lot more versatile and hectic life friendly than you’d think, you just have to know the right ways to utilize it!

Egg White Muffins

Egg White Muffins

These egg white muffins are incredibly simple to make and great for an on the go breakfast. In this version I used about 1/4 cup organic baby spinach, 1/4 cup white mushrooms, and a small piece of red bell pepper all chopped and mixed together for my filling. To make 4 egg muffins I use 8 egg whites (2 whites per muffin tin space) and i seasoned the whites with Mrs. Dash salt free seasoning and some italian seasoning.
To assemble: I use extra virgin organic coconut oil spray to coat the muffin tin (but any nonstick spray will work) and then divide up my veggie mixture evenly between the 4 slots. Whisk the egg whites with a fork until you see tiny bubbles start to form. Then pour the whites over the veggies and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until set. Take them out of the muffin tin to cool and there you have it! I eat 2 muffins as a serving, so there’s leftovers for breakfast tomorrow too!! Yum!