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!!

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I can do anything for 3 days…my juice cleanse experience

If there’s one time of year to indulge, it’s certainly on your birthday.  I like to say that I have a birthday “season” as opposed to restricting myself to just one day for celebrations.  And boy did I have a lot of celebrations this year in which I indulged in pretty much whatever I wanted. While I’m completely okay with this on a mental level, because I’m only human, and I mean, it’s my birthday, my body on the other hand, was not too happy with me.  To go from having eliminated dairy for a while now, and having cut out 99% of processed foods and sugars to eating a ton of cheese, sugary desserts and overall not-good-for-you foods, definitely took a toll on me.  I felt sluggish, sick, down and depressed and basically just pretty awful.

I made the decision to do a 3 day juice cleanse once I was done celebrating.  I wanted to reset my body and get back on track with my healthy eating and great feelings.  When I told people I was going to do this, I of course got a lot of mixed responses.  Some just don’t get it and think it’s a waste of money, while others were excited for me and wanted to hear how it went.  While it’s certainly not for everyone, I can honestly say having now completed it, that I am overwhelmingly glad I did this and I’m sure I will continue to feel even better.  I will give you some of the “listed” benefits of doing something like this, however I also think that hearing about my personal experience can be far more meaningful to those who are considering something like this for themselves or are skeptical.

Juice cleanse - detox

First let me start with the basic jist of what this particular cleanse I chose is all about.  It was created by Ami Beach, co-owner of G-Zen in Branford, CT (named one of the top 10 upscale vegan restaurants in America by Shape magazine).  Her list of credentials in holistic practices and years of experience speaks for itself.  If you’re interested in reading up on her or the cleanse more, the website is: http://www.g-glow.blogspot.com/ and the information below is taken directly from there.

The juices are made from over 80 lbs of fresh 100% organic produce.  They are fresh pressed using a state-of the-art Walker hydraulic juicer that leaves the juices in the most nutrient dense state. The Fresh pressed Organic juices are custom mixed with medicinal enhancers ie: (collodial silver, oxygen, aloe vera, cell food ect) and blended in such as way to stabilize your blood sugar level and allow you to get through the cleanse with ease & grace. 

Benefits include:

* Reboot metabolism & immune system

* Lose weight and stimulation of better digestion

* Increases Energy

* Mental clarity

* Cellular detoxification of blood & organs

* Improve skin clarity and complexion

* Improved assimilation and elimination

By giving your digestive system a much needed rest from the processed, acidic foods you consume on a daily basis, you will feel the amazing benefits of a regulated and nourished colon. Experience increased energy, stamina, and mental clarity. Embrace your new radiant complexion and healthy hair and nails!

The benefits of juice cleanses will vary by person, as do many things having to do with our bodies and diet, because we’re all different.  For me, despite the things that I found difficult (which I will get into after), I found the whole process extremely positive.

The first thing that I noticed, and continue to feel, is an overall sensation of feeling lighter: lighter heart, lighter mind, and lighter body.  On top of that I felt a distinct calm and ease about myself.  As I said before, I was feeling listless and depressed, and even after the first day, I woke up with a brightness and clarity that is similar to how I feel after my yoga classes.  All of this is contrary to how I was afraid I would feel.  Usually, if I don’t get something to eat every few hours, I feel sluggish and I’m a snappy, crabby brat.  MANY can attest to that haha. Yet, my mood never dropped once and my energy levels were heightened throughout the day, all because the juices are designed to keep your blood sugar stable.

Another benefit I found in just these 3 short days is my skin is glowing.  I don’t have troublesome skin so I never even thought of this as a benefit, but I truly do notice that my face and complexion has brightened and is softer and clearer.

Another aspect that was a great surprise to me was how amazingly I slept.  I have terrible sleep habits, bouts of insomnia, and don’t allow my body the rest it needs a lot of the time.  I have slept the best, most restorative, baby-like sleep I have had in a LONG time.  I fell asleep easily, I woke up feeling rested and refreshed and if nothing else, this whole cleanse was worth it just for that!!

The most important thing to me though, is how much better I feel.  Clearing out my system from the foods I don’t typically eat and giving my body time to re-set has made a world of difference in the way I feel physically.

Now on to the things I had difficulty with, since I know that’s the juicy gossip everyone really wants to know about.  Well, get this…I missed eating! Surprise, surprise.  I wasn’t hungry per-se, it was more the act of eating that I missed.  What I found was that it was mainly in situations where I was bored, or at work where I’m always mindlessly snacking (on healthy things like celery, but still, I’m constantly eating).  But finding things to keep me from getting bored, like spending time with my friends, reading, and writing this blog, kept me from having to fill that boredom void with munching on something.  The other thing I found really difficult was not being able to cook.  Now I know this is something that is probably specific to me, but I realized just how much I love being in the kitchen and cooking with fresh, healthy foods.  I actually ended up cooking last night, my final night of the cleanse, because, 1) I just couldn’t take not cooking anymore, and 2) I wanted to have an amazing lunch for my first day back to eating.

Overall, this was an extremely wonderful experience for me.  I feel great about myself having gotten though it and I feel physically rejuvenated.  Every one of the juices tasted fantastic, the instructions were thorough and clear and there was support available if I needed it.  This is definitely something I will recommend to anyone who is interested in trying it, and something I will absolutely do again myself in the future.