Valentine’s Day Nachos (but not really)

I received a request from a friend to do a Valentine’s Day themed blog post; something romantic or sweet that reflected the spirit of the holiday.  I thought about what Valentine’s Day means to the people I care about and how they might enjoy celebrating.

So here it is, Nachos for One.

Nah, not really.  That’s more bleak than I care to be.

I normally wouldn’t give a crap about Valentine’s Day, but what the hell, it’s not a terrible day outside; I’m on an upswing from a string of several stressful days, and I’ve got the Ethiopians playing in the background.  Time to bust out some sweetheart recipe.

Sweet Potato Banana Bread

This quick bread is fairly healthy and pretty simple to make, although I would have let mine sit in the oven for a bit longer so it fluffed up properly.  You will need:

  • 1 small sweet potato (about a cup’s worth), mashed
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs (I didn’t have enough, but you can use ¼ cup of applesauce for each egg, so ½ cup for this recipe)
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of flour (I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • ½ cup of sugar (which I replaced with ¼ cup of agave nectar
  • A hand full of dark chocolate chips (I used about 1/3 cup)

Yield: 1 loaf

So, preheat your oven to 350°F.  Mash the bananas while you prepare your sweet potato.  I just put min in the microwave for about six minutes and let it cool enough to handle.  In a large bowl, blend together your bananas, sweet potato, eggs (or egg replacers), sugar, and oil.  Mix until it’s well incorporated.

In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Combine them well, and then stir it into the bowl with the banana-sweet potato mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

  

Lightly grease a baking pan (I used an 8×8, but you can use a loaf pan if you prefer).  Add your batter and place in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until you can remove a toothpick cleanly.

This isn’t exactly what you might consider typical Valentine’s fare, but I think most typical Valentine’s fare sucks.  There is only so much candy you can eat (or should eat); those little hearts are chalky and it eludes me why we still buy them if general consensus is that they’re awful (although I have the same question about fruitcake around Christmas); and big, romantic dinners tend to be heavy on the meat, fat, and cholesterol.  This bread is sweet, and the bananas and sweet potatoes are actually heart-healthy foods, which seems more appropriate for this kind of holiday.  And if you’re worried that it doesn’t quite seem to fit the Valentine’s Day bill, here’s how I presented it to my sweetheart:

(The food on this blog won’t kill you, but you might get diabetes from how sappy I can get)

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

(yes, you!)

Eat this! (not every title can be a winner, but check out these Raw Burritos)

I love Sunday mornings.  Since college, I’ve appreciated having one part of my week being dedicated to being intentionally slow.  Sometimes I troll recipe blogs or watch silly YouTube videos with my partner (this has become a favorite).  Today, I’m spending it drinking my coffee at a leisurely pace (I’m on my second cup already) and writing about raw food burritos (and no, I don’t meant steak tartar and crunchy rice wrapped up in a tortilla).

I’ve been reading a lot recently about raw vegan diets and, a more recent phenomenon, the Paleo Diet, one that tries to recreate a diet that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed.  The Paleo Diet stresses consumption of “fresh meats…eggs…seafood, fresh fruits, [vegetables], nuts and seeds and healthful fats”, while avoiding, well, pretty much everything else, including dairy, salt, and often caffeine, alcohol, and marijuana*.  Raw food diets are a little more self explanatory: your diet consists of raw fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, some roots, and perhaps some fermented foods and salts.  All of your food is prepared fresh, and cooking is essentially limited to dehydration.

There are ups and downs to both diets, the most evident being the many (but not all) adherents to either diet are often self-righteous tightwads.  Seriously, spend a few hours with a groups of raw vegans and see if can resist grinding your teeth.  These diets are easier to follow in locations where access to fresh vegetation is more readily available; having spent five miserable winters in New England, it’s easy to see why adhering to raw veganism might be difficult.  The Paleo Diet sounds like a great idea at first glance, but depending on meat, and often red meat, as the bulk of your caloric intake can lead to high risk of heart disease, kidney problems, and certain cancers.  On the bright side, these diets do advocate for increased consciousness of what you are eating, when you are eating throughout the course of a day, and greater food preparation at home rather than depending on prepared and packaged food.  Furthermore, both the Paleo Diet and raw veganism advocate for an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise, meditation, yoga, and other activities.  At the heart of both diets is increasing your nutritional intake and trying to eat in harmony with your surrounding environment, and it is hard to be angry at that.

For me, these diets are exciting opportunities to try a new recipe, which brings me to the burritos.  I apologize for not having pictures to accompany this post, so bear with me.

Raw food or raw vegan burritos are essentially a handheld salad on the go.  They’re a fun addition to dinners and potlucks (or Superbowl parties, which I will be hopping tonight), and they are highly versatile; there is no right or wrong way to enjoy these.  There are really only two ingredients that I think are necessary for raw burritos.  The first are collard greens, which will serve as your tortilla.  Collards are related to kale and cabbage, and are extremely healthy; the leaves have high quantities of fiber and calcium (great for people who are avoiding dairy), and also pack Vitamins A, C, and K.  The second necessity is avocado.  I like adding avocado because it provides a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat (the kind that helps maintain low cholesterol levels), Vitamin E, and fiber, and it adds a creaminess that goes will with whatever else you are adding to your burrito.

Here’s the process:

Peel and mash your avocado. Using a sharp knife, shave the stalk of the collard green leaf off so that your leaf is flatter and more amenable to folding.  Lay your leaf out flat and spread some of the mashed avocado.  Add your other vegetables, not so much that your burrito will be overstuffed and burst, but enough to have a good blend of flavors.  Fold the bottom of your leaf (the broad top part without the stalk ending) up and over to create a pocket, and then fold the two sides of the collard leaf over the middle, one over the other.  If you want, feel free to attach a twist tie or rubber band to the middle to hold the burrito together.  That’s it!  The fillings are up to you, but here are some ideas:

  • Bean sprouts
  • Grated root vegetables (I like shredded carrot and turnip mixed with lemon juice)
  • Brussel sprout leaves
  • Nut butter spread
  • Bell peppers
  • Chopped tomatoes or red onion added to the avocado
  • If you’re not avoiding animal products, some shredded cheese or some filleted fish (this won’t make it a raw burrito, but what the heck, enjoy it)
  • Make an accompanying dipping sauce

For some further journalistic explorations raw and Paleo diets, check out these exciting pieces from NPR:

Have you experimented with a raw food or Paleo diet? What were your experiences?

*Note: “Roots, Leaves, and Everything Else” in no way advocates for the consumptions of cannabis except as prescribed by a physician.  For more information about marijuana legislation and activism, please check out NORML.  For a great movie about marijuana consumption, check out Half Baked.  Seriously, it’s worth watching.