Coconut-Chai Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon

I ended up going to college about 25 miles from where I grew up — not what I had planned, but at least it meant I could go home for Thanksgiving with a minimum of hassle. Until my mom and stepdad moved to India for three years. After that, my Thanksgivings stopped being traditional for the most part.

I had one Thanksgiving with two cousins, newly immigrated from Thailand, who each tried one bite of the food before dousing their entire plates in Thai sweet chili sauce. I spent two Thanksgivings in Japan, surrounded by a giant crowd of homesick Americans and their cobbled-together nostalgic recipes made with Japanese ingredients. And I’ve had a couple “orphan” Thanksgivings with friends who aren’t going home for the holiday, my plan again for this year.

Except it’s starting to feel less like an orphan Thanksgiving, this day spent surrounded by some of my favorite people, and starting to feel more like a tradition in its own right. What is a tradition? There’s no mention in its definition of having to be blood related.

There’s also no mention of marshmallows, which is why I firmly believe sweet potato recipes can become traditions without them. This recipe was inspired by Paula Deen, of all people. At an orphan Thanksgiving a couple years ago, my friend Beth made Paula’s Ol’ No. 7 Yams, which glazes roasted sweet potatoes with a mixture of butter, brown sugar and Jack Daniels. The recipe used, as Beth noted, a not-too-shocking amount of butter for a Paula Deen recipe and turned out to be completely delicious. I may have had fourths.

My version swaps out the butter for a little coconut oil, and flavors the glaze with black tea, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, the spices traditionally used to make chai tea. I also use a lot less sugar than ol’ Paula, just enough to cut the bitterness of the tea and play up the roasted sweetness of the potatoes. After simmering for about 20 minutes, the finished glaze is mellow but still quite thin, so don’t expect a sticky-sweet coating. Instead, it’s more a fragrant marinade that soaks into the sweet potatoes as they cook in the oven.

This is definitely a dish that can be assembled hours before or even the day before Thanksgiving, and popped into the oven for its final bake just before the meal. No, this recipe isn’t traditional — but it might be the start of a tradition for me.
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Spiced Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Porridge with Pistachios

I’ve always eaten breakfast, but I haven’t always eaten breakfast well. For most of my life, breakfast meant a bowl of cold cereal and milk, or a couple pieces of toast with butter and jam. It was mostly carbohydrates with just a little fat, and I was always ravenous within a couple hours.

In Japan I changed my ways, partly because I was obsessed with the eggs and yogurt there, and partly because my teaching schedule left no time for a mid-morning snack. Breakfast had to get me through to lunch, which is why I ate the exact. same. breakfast. Every day for two years! I always had a super-thick piece of buttered toast — we’d call it Texas toast here — full-fat yogurt with muesli and fruit, and one hard-boiled egg. I never got tired of it. And its mix of carbs, protein and fat fueled me through lunchtime.

Since then, I’ve always strived to include a little protein and healthy fat with my morning carbs, and a little fruit to get the day started right. Usually that means toast topped with almond butter with a side of plain yogurt and fruit, or oatmeal with dried fruit, ground flaxseeds and nuts. But lately I’ve been in a rut and I’m hoping this porridge will snap me out of it.

October means pumpkin time — seriously, have you seen this month’s Fearless Flyer from Trader Joe’s? — and I’m always happy to celebrate. But you know what I’m not happy to do? Make a pumpkin recipe that only uses part of the can, so that I’m left with a weird little container of pumpkin puree in the fridge that inevitably goes moldy and makes me feel guilty when I have to throw it out. Pumpkin guilt: I don’t need it.

So this recipe intentionally uses a full 15-ounce can of pumpkin, which makes for a very pumpkin-y porridge. It’s also not terribly sweet, so if you want a full-on pumpkin-pie-for-breakfast experience, you may want to up the brown sugar. Either way, this is a perfectly autumnal breakfast full of protein and healthy fats to get you through the day — without a trace of pumpkin guilt.
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Friday Links: October 12, 2012

Kimchi fried rice with extra kimchi on the side. (Follow me on Instagram: anjaliruth.)


What I’ve been reading:

Why California’s Prop 37 Should Matter to Anyone Who Cares About Food – The New York Times

Botulism Outbreak Tied To Contaminated Prison Hooch – NPR

School Year’s Resolution 2: Master the Weekly Shop at Dinner: A Love Story (Lots of good grocery-shopping tips!)

• Modernist Cuisine at Home: Make Water Work for You – Food52


What I’ve been cooking (at The Kitchn):

Prosciutto & Arugula Pizza

Kimchi Fried Rice with Extra Greens

Coconut Black Rice Pudding

…and thinking about cooking:

Whole Wheat Walnut Pancakes with Brown Butter Apple Compote – Good Things Grow

Yotam Ottlenghi’s Tuna Cakes with Yuzu Yogurt – The Guardian UK

Nutritionist vs Registered Dietitian: What’s the Difference?

A dietitian can be a nutritionist, but a nutritionist isn’t necessarily a dietitian. What the what? Although most people use the terms interchangeably, there is actually a big difference between the two.

The short answer: A dietitian has to meet specific standards in education and supervised training, as well as pass a national registration exam. And a nutritionist…just has to call herself a nutritionist.

More specifically, a registered dietitian (RD) must have at least a bachelor’s degree with coursework that has been approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the agency which oversees and confers professional credentials in the U.S. After completing the required coursework — which includes classes in food science and nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, medical nutrition therapy, and many, many more — students must complete 1200 hours of supervised practice from an accredited dietetic internship program. After the completion of the internship, students are eligible to take the registration exam and, after passing, use the title “registered dietitian.” In order to keep their credentials, dietitians must also keep up with continuing education requirements, so they stay up to date with the newest nutrition information.

In contrast, there is no regulating board for nutritionists, which means anyone can claim the title at any time. This isn’t to say that there aren’t nutritionists out there who are highly educated, experienced and keeping up with the latest developments in food and nutrition — there is just no way to know for sure without asking some very specific questions and hoping you can trust all the answers.

Obviously, as someone studying to be a dietitian, I am biased toward RDs. There is a reason I am going through the multi-year process of becoming a registered dietitian rather than a choosing a short nutrition training program and starting work immediately. Part of it is the greater number of job opportunities available, but I also admire the amount of learning and training RDs go through before beginning their practice. I don’t just want to be someone who knows a lot about nutrition, I want to be an expert.

You can trust that a dietitian will be a nutrition expert. That’s the biggest difference.

More Information:
Qualifications of a Registered Dietitian at the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Roasted Tomato, Squash & Coconut Milk Bisque

I’m suffering from a major case of autumn envy.

On Facebook friends who don’t live in Los Angeles talk about brisk, sunny days and post photos of themselves wearing adorable trench coats and boots while I sit, sweating, in a limp tank top and stupid shorts. It’s October. It was 96°F today.

So in rebellion, I made soup.

I’ll admit there is something nice about the overlap between summer’s bursting produce and the comforting vegetables of fall. Dark red summer tomatoes are cheaper at the farmers market now, as vendors try to sell off the last of the season, and winter squash has started popping up, with names straight out of J. Crew’s fall collection. Butternut. Ambercup. Acorn.

This summer-fall hybrid time seemed like the perfect moment to try a recipe I pinned ages ago, a vegan tomato-squash bisque made with coconut milk instead of cream from the lovely blog Honest Fare. The tomatoes and squash are roasted first to concentrate their flavors, then simmered in coconut milk and vegetable stock before being whizzed into a smooth puree.

To play off the coconut, I added fresh grated ginger to the mixture and skipped the basil called for in the original recipe. I also used light coconut instead of full-fat, which I think lets the flavors of the vegetables come to the forefront: the bright tomatoes, the sweet squash. It’s a cross between a Thanksgiving-ready creamy butternut soup and a fresh summer tomato soup and I like it so much I’ve made it twice, even during this endless Indian summer.
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