Last semester I had a lot of free time in the mornings (read: first class at 1 pm). I could wake up, casually drink coffee, go through class readings and actually take notes- not just skim and pull out talking points. I could make breakfast at 10, when I truly felt like eating, instead of at 7:30, when anything but caffeine makes me feel icky. Because breakfast happened at a respectable hour, there was no need for lunch until 3 or so, which was just about when I was finishing class, so I would mosey on back to the apartment and figure things out. It was a pretty good deal. This semester is much much busier, which really changes up my food routine. Mornings are less about breakfast quinoa and Joy the Baker’s podcast and more about figuring out how to simultaneously eat yogurt and put on a coat. Don’t even get me started on lunch on the go; I can barely get through salad at a designated eating table without making a mess. Imagine how that works at a desk in an office or classroom or costume/scene shop, which is where I find myself this semester at lunchtime. It’s an issue. Throw in the whole it’s thirteen degrees outside + body craving all the comfort food and we have the perfect storm.
The biggest problem with trying to find satisfying things to eat when it’s freezing and one is pressed for time? Making said enjoyable food not microwaved cookies. At least, not every day.. So for those moments when I’m looking for something a little better -while also maintaining a semblance of table manners- I always find myself back at the humble sweet potato. Considering that for some reason I have little desire to eat savory food until it’s dark out (idkidk I’m a nut), but know deep down this is a really poor choice health-wise, I’ve started making sweet potatoes for lunch..and dinner and midnight snacks. I roast a whole bunch at once and then eat half a potato once or twice a day for the next week! They manage to hold their own with pretty much every spice. Sometimes I go cinnamon and ginger; others it’s thyme and dried mustard. But my all-time favorite is a za’atar-dusted (zahtar? zatr? romanization ahhhh) potato with just a pinch of harissa. If I was a really good food blogger, I’d make my own versions of these spices. But alas, I am still a major procrastinator and usually end up looking at Instagram when I could be throwing together a quick batch of za’atar. Someday I’ll get myself together. In the meantime, I recommend this brand! And this harissa spice has done me well. The potatoes do take a while to bake, but you can get so much done in the time they’re hanging out in the oven- plus the kitchen will smell like Thanksgiving, you tell me if that’s a problem. So there’s really no downside. For dinner, I like making these with quinoa or lentils, sautéed kale, and half an avocado. For lunch I’ll snack on them with cashews and dried cranberries, so I get my sweet craving out of the way. Don’t get me wrong, it may not seem as satisfying as melted chocolate or mac and cheese, but for a bunch of healthy food it feels pretty darn decadent.
Potatoes (recipe makes 4 halves, easily multiplied)
2 sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon za’atar
1 teaspoon harissa spice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil. Wash and scrub the potatoes. Slice off the tips of both ends and cut in half lengthwise. Rub the halves in olive oil and salt. Lay potatoes on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining spices. Bake 30-45 minutes, depending on how big your potatoes are. Let cool completely then store in the fridge for about a week (good luck lasting that long) in an airtight containter!