Sweet Potatoes + Savory Oats

Like any normal person, I decided to make my grocery list by thinking of foods I liked the least. Sweet potatoes and oatmeal, welcome to the party.

I was never into sweet potatoes because the idea of potatoes being sweet was confusing, and brown sugar glazes or marshmallows made the situation even worse. Oatmeal felt like something that was designed to be healthy, but is always served with 30 grams of sugar. Add in my love for protein in the morning and I just didn’t see the point.

However, I thought I must be missing something, especially since both dishes seemed like a very cost effective and filling addition to the day. Here’s how we all found love in a hopeless place:

Baked for Breakfast- Put sweet potatoes in the oven at 425 for 45-60 minutes or until soft to the touch. Cut in half and add protein, hot sauce (if you’re me), and anything else you’d like. Any more potato than that and the ratio isn’t the best for us non-potato enthusiasts. You also just started the meal prep for multiple breakfasts, killin’ it.

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The yolk makes this amazing, topped with sour cream (or greek yogurt)
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Greek yogurt, cinnamon, honey, pecans, and apple pie jam
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Paired with Herbivorous Butcher’s maple breakfast sausage

Savory and Steel Cut- Every morning, my dad makes “oaties” on the stove for himself and our dog. That’s correct. It always seemed like an oddly long process, but yielding 4-5 servings made it worth it. Bring  3 cups water with 1 cup almond milk to a boil, and stir in 1 cup steel cut oats. Simmer for 20ish minutes on medium-low, stirring regularly, until the mixture becomes thick.

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Oats with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and red thai sauce
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Mixed with chocolate chips, coconut, maple syrup, and raspberries for dessert

Let me know what you try!

Chia Pudding- Protein + Coffee

In my book, Sundays were designed for those if only I had time for… wish list items. For me this often means making up new and extensive recipes. However, if the Sunday somehow slipped away, this chia pudding recipe is a quick way to snack plan and make the rest of your week a breeze.
chia puddingWhat you need:

  • Protein Powder: Vanilla SFH Pure if you want to get like me, or any will do
  • 8 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup coffee (let it cool)
  • 1-1.5 cup almond milk (I prefer original over unsweetened)

Hit it:

Mix dry ingredients together, mason jars work amazing for this exact step. Then add in 3/4 cup chilled coffee, stir or shake. Fill the remainder of the jar with the 1-1.5 cup almond milk and stir or shake once again. Be sure that there isn’t any chia seeds or powder chunks sticking to the side.

Leave in the fridge overnight and then celebrate come snack time Monday morning! This amount is good for 2-4 servings, depending on how excited you are about chia pudding. So while you’re at it, make enough for the whole week.

Why I love it:

  • Get a mix of sweet and bitter with the vanilla, cocoa, and almond milk paired with coffee and chia seeds. Tasty enough for dessert but healthy enough for a daily snack. Win-win.
  • Chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fats (hard to get outside of fish and nuts), protein, and vitamins. Yes. Please.
  • It truly is as easy as it sounds to make, and is healthy snack to grab and go. Granola bars and flavored yogurt, we’re onto you.

Enjoy!

Zoodle + Shrimp Pad Thai

Yes, please. If you haven’t heard me talk about my zoodler, you aren’t asking the right questions. I am obsessed. If you aren’t familiar, I’m referring to a handy tool that can make noodles out of any vegetable. {Zucchini noodles–> zoodles –> zoodler} Technically it’s called a veggetti…but that name has obvious issues that the entire marketing team somehow overlooked. If you want to convince anyone that your dish is better than regular noodles, I recommend staying away from that word.

Let’s hit it:IMG_4491

What you need (Prep 20 mins)
-First and foremost, a Zoodler! Aka a vegetti…but that name has obvious issues that the
entire marketing team somehow overlooked. So I call it a zoodler. Rice noodles could be used if you aren’t convinced this tool will change your life.
-6 zucchinis (on the smaller side)
-3 eggs
-15 shrimp, defrosted
-1 can chickpeas
-3 tbsp garlic
-Simmer sauce (Trader Joe’s Red Thai Curry is my fave)
-Crushed red pepper
-Lemon & pepper seasoning

IMG_4492How to (Cook time 15 mins)
-Start boiling the water and zoodle all zucchinis into a large bowl, set aside.
-Sautee shrimp and season with lemon & pepper spice, set aside.
-Add zoodles to boiling water, cook for 5-7 minutes; drain
-Chop shrimp into thirds, add to zoodles with drained chickpeas, garlic, and stir in simmer sauce to cover mixture. Low heat for 5 minutes.
-Scramble the 3 eggs, and stir in.
-Add crushed red pepper to taste, and serve!

Serves four. Or in my language, bring to work in a large tupperware and have with salad for four days 🙂 Why Zoodle?

  • Zucchinis are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins (A, B6, C & K), potassium, magnesium, and folate. This is true for zucchini squash as well!
  • Sweet potatoes are an amazing source of vitamin A (shout out to that beta-carotene), vitamin C, copper, magnesium, fiber, vitamins B1 & B2, and phosphorus. And then you get to say sweet patoodle. My kind of perk.

Compared to pasta, which usually has at least 200 carb-dense calories/serving. For me, the main differentiator is that vegetable noodles have one nutrient-rich ingredient going into their production, while pasta is processed and preserved.

I can tell you from my four months of living in Italy that all of those ingredients, preservatives, and coloring agents do make a difference. Fresh and homemade pasta was not reserved for the most gourmet restaurants, it is just how Italians make pasta. As a result, Americans who are gluten-intolerant/sensitive tend to not experience issues.

If a trip isn’t in the near future, start experimenting with fresh zucchini noodles! Have a favorite zoodler recipe? Please share!

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Time Is Of The Essence

As I’ve mentioned, Italy takes a different approach to daily routines, one that has made me never feel pressed for time- until now. I’ve been told that our time abroad is beginning to near the end, an idea I refuse to acknowledge enough to fact check.

The saddest part of this concept, isn’t all the cappuccinos, amazing professors or beautiful monuments that I will miss. It’s the presence of people, across many different programs, counting down the days until their return to US soil.

Yes, everyone is different and to each their own, etc. Yet, for me, witnessing these reactions to our last month studying abroad represents a lack of gratitude and appreciation. From Rome to Brazil to Australia, wherever you are, studying abroad is a privilege so many people are unable to experience. How could you not appreciate, cherish, and already miss every single moment?

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.51.49 AMThis value of time coincides with the Italian approach to food. Dedicated to the slow food movement, Italy has reinforced my values of eating local and knowing what you’re eating. From the traditional family restaurants to the abundance of open air markets to the beloved Made In Italy label, real food is essential to Italy.

Similar to students ready to return home, our usual approach to food speeds along a process in a way that compromises quality and experience. Our Sustainable Foods professor, Sergio, says we are “enslaved by speed,” meaning we allow a lack of time to decide everything about our lives, especially what we eat. After an amazing weekend field trip to the Abruzzo region of Italy, where we only ate food grown and produced on the farm and watched cheese being made, the value of taking your time with food was driven home.

Everywhere around the world, especially the US, we take quality ingredients for granted and attempt to make the process of cooking and eating as efficient as possible. Few people want to know where their meat or produce come from, and have even less interest in the process it took for their meal to get there.

Started in Italy by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in the 1980’s, Slow Food began in response to the opening of the first McDonald’s in Rome. Even though there are now 10 Roman locations, this is no sign of a Slow Food defeat.

Followed first by Germany and Switzerland, the Slow Food movement gained international recognition, even leading to Slow Food USA in 2000.

IMG_1782Eating is one of the simplest, yet most memorable, ways of experiencing a culture. This makes quality food universally and cross-culturally valued, something I experienced first hand in Istanbul. Walking past the fishermen waiting patiently by the river, walking through bustling fish markets, then visiting the famous fish sandwich vendors and enjoying our meal on said river; the simplicity was impossible to ignore. Sergio often reminds us to ask ourselves where our food comes from. All at once I could see where my fish came from, and each step of the production process, usually kept clandestine by the food industry. This transparent, local and sustainable approach to food is one of my most sacred memories of Istanbul.

What this all comes down to, is there will never be enough time; but we have more control over how we spend it than we admit. Whether it’s a semester abroad or ingredients for dinner, we’ll experience so much more if we make the most of what we are given. Skype shouldn’t trump scenic walks through foreign streets; 15 minutes isn’t better spent Facebook stalking than cooking real meals; and opportunities for connecting and building relationships with those around you shouldn’t be swapped for updating that silly countdown.

True appreciation of the experiences we are given, whatever they may be, calls for a mindset that focuses on what you have accomplished, enjoyed and grown from- not when it will be over.

And if you’re truly doing it right, what you take away from these once in a lifetime opportunities won’t have an expiration date. You’ll meet people with an open mind, thinking of that one roommate that pleasantly surprised you; you’ll say yes to invitations out of your comfort zone, remembering everything you gained from new cultural experiences; and most importantly, you’ll have gratitude that needs not a reminder.