Sleep = Sweet Potatoes + Soy Sauce

Sweet Potato Brand

As a certified wine specialist, passing the Advanced Level Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) exam, I’m always up for trying new blends and interesting pairings, broadening my experiences and culinary adventures. The first rule in pairing wine with food is simple: texture. Never mind the flavors, types of meat, season, or occasion; you must first think about the weights and feel of your food and beverage. For this reason, full-bodied Chardonnays classically pair with lobster and creamy sauces, medium-bodied Pinot Gris pairs with steamed salmon fillets, and light-bodied Grüner Veltliner with grilled butterflied trout.

After receiving sweet potatoes in my CSA lot for the week, I decided that these intensely flavored and hefty tuberous roots need some strong partners to get the complexity I want for my dish. Apples and winter spices are obvious additions, but I want to up the ante. I researched sweet potatoes to find out more about their health benefits no narrow down my ideas. These starches are very good sources for Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber, etc.; moreover, sweet potatoes are proud producers of properties that our bodies register as sleeping aids. Eating this complex carbohydrate signals our body to produce more serotonin, which gives us that sleepy feeling. Sweet potatoes also have tryptophan, which when digested, can help our bodies alleviate insomnia, anxiety, and depression. This essential amino acid is found in other protein-based foods. I thought that out of all the possible protein-based choices, soy sauce would be a challenge. So sweet potatoes, meet soy sauce! One tablespoon of soy sauce already has nearly 10% for your daily value need for tryptophan. This salty-sweet combo is just what I want to see on my plate for dinner!

Soy Beans

Tabasco and Sweet Potato

Dreamy Sweet Potatoes

modified from “Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes.” The I love Whole Foods Market Cookbook. October 2011.

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco, or other hot sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (do not use a silpat or other non-stick baking mat as the temperature is too high, although I do recommend these for kneading dough or baking at temperatures under 400°F).
  2. Wash potatoes, leaving on the skins.
  3. Using a fork, poke holes in the potatoes and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until you can easily insert a knife into a potato, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cut in half lengthwise. Let rest until cool enough to handle, at least 10 minutes.
  4. Increase oven temperature to 450°F.
  5. Scoop out the inner flesh of the potato once cool, leaving about a 1/4-inch rim along the potato skin. Add the butter, soy sauce, honey, cream, and hot sauce. Stir to combine. Spoon the sweet potato mixture back into the skins and return to the baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until the tops brown slightly. Serve warm.

These sweet potatoes are slightly spicy, so adjust to your tastes. Dress your potato halves with dried fish or sesame seeds for an added tryptophan kick.

Since I started this blog writing about wine, I feel that I should add a wine pairing. My taste buds sense a creamy and richly flavored forkful of soft fluff when I eat these sweet potatoes. The wine to wash it down should be equally luscious and strong. I recommend a Viognier from Australia or USA as the notes of ginger and tropical fruits will balance out the heat and match the sweetness from the dish, or young Spanish red (from Rioja or Priorat). Bon ap, to sleep!

Photos courtesy of Flickr member: Veganbaking.net; “Black soybeans”

Melatonin = Tomatoes + Walnuts

Tomatoes

I’m a night owl… at least I am now. I didn’t used to be. In college I woke up at 3:30am for ice hockey practice and other days at dawn to go take on the track or gym. My roommates were fast asleep, but I was up to get my day started right away. Not anymore! My “me time” is now at night when I can relax or check off some items on my Wunderlist. Hockey and working out comes now at night, and getting out of bed is, well, it takes time these days! Staying up late, though, because I can’t get to sleep shortens my beauty rest routinely. Shouldn’t I be able to stop thinking about my to-do’s and just hold off things until the next morning? I need to change this habit, so my choice is to turn to a natural remedy. And since food is bliss for me, I’ll make my nightly snack or dessert help me out on this challenge (and keep me away from my computer, who distracts me from my oh-so-lovely bed).

As it’s August, I’m turning to some summer bounty to befriend my efforts. Tomatoes, meet walnuts. Both of these ingredients are high on the scale in melatonin compared to all the other fish in the pond. Snatch up those orange and red and pink tomatoes, looking so ripe and full of good care and growth! So, the tomato-walnut combo can be thrown together in many different ways, but my tummy tells me that something creamy would create the perfect cloud with which to pile on slices of fresh tomato and crunchy walnuts. Ah, I made Mascarpone cheese the other day for Chicken Marsala… perfect!

You can make this thick and smooth cheese, too! All you need is heavy whipping cream and citric acid, which you can purchase online, such as at King Arthur Flour, or baking supplies stores. If you bake with sourdough, in fact, such as Sourdough Pumpernickel bread, then adding citric acid can help make your bread have a more acidic taste and smell. I purchased a cheese making kit and recipe book from Standing Stone Farms. The other ingredients in the kit are used for other recipes, including mozzarella and queso fresco. Here’s their recipe for Mascarpone:

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Very slowly, heat cream to 190°F. You will begin to see the cream get (slightly) frothy and foamy.
  2. Remove from heat and add citric acid and salt. Stir gently 3-4 times in an up and down motion. The milk will begin to split into curd and whey.
  3. Place drain bag into colander over a pot large enough to allow whey to drain. Pour in curds.
  4. Let curds rest until room temperature, about 1 hour.
  5. Cover curds in bag and colander with plastic wrap and let drip in refrigerator for 12 hours. Remove from bag and enjoy.

Now, you may not think that your cream is turning into cheese, but keep going! Trust me, it doesn’t look like what you’re used to until it’s refrigerated and complete. A candy thermometer and cheesecloth will make this recipe super-duper easy, so I suggest having those by your side to assist you in your tasks. And make room in the refrigerator for the big bowl that you’ll be setting inside. This recipe makes at least a pound of Mascarpone, so you’ll certainly have some to share and use with dried fruits, honey, etc.!

Mascarpone

Slice up some sourdough or hearty bread, slather on the Mascarpone, and top with your walnuts and then tomato slices. I stop here and then indulge, but feel free to add anything else you have around the kitchen that you think would be another great addition. Maybe that mint growing in the container on my balcony would be great, as mint is another source of melatonin. It’s a sleeping-aid party on your late night snack! Bon ap to good sleep!

Photo courtesy of Flickr member eVo photo; “Tomatoes”