Arugula Sweet Potato Salad with Cinnamon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Lately I’ve been all aboard the sweet potato train, and today’s post will hopefully get you on the bandwagon as well. I love sweet potatoes in pretty much any form, and could happily eat them for several meals a day. Luckily they are great all year round as French fries or a delicious breakfast, and work just as well in salads as they do in soups and chilis.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Several months ago my office had a catered lunch that was a bit higher class than our norm. Although all the food was delicious, the one that made the most impact on me was an arugula and spiced sweet potato quinoa salad. Their version was sweet, with heavily candied nuts, sugary dried cranberries, and a sweetened balsamic vinaigrette amongst the quinoa, arugula, and goat cheese. Although I loved this combination, it really was like eating dessert with arugula in it which isn’t necessarily something I want to do very often.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired by their concoction, I opted to test out a more savory version for myself. I kept the cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes but only lightly honeyed my walnuts. I also nixed the cranberries and used bacon instead, and adjusted the arugula:quinoa ratio to be more in favor of the former. Originally I was going to use brie as chèvre (goat cheese) can be exorbitantly expensive, but I discovered Costco carries goat cheese at an incredibly reasonable price and so I kept that flavor as well. Feel free to substitute brie or another neutral soft cheese if you prefer.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

The spiced sweet potatoes, salty bacon, creamy chèvre and lightly sweetened and toasted walnuts come together in that fantastic sweet-and-salty juxtaposition that is so popular these days. Arugula and quinoa make a great base and let salad act either as a light lunch or a great side dish.

To round out the experience, I made a cinnamon balsamic vinaigrette only slightly sweetened with honey to mellow the flavor. The dressing gives the salad more of a punch of flavor, and I highly recommend you make it too. In fact, maybe make extra and use it on your other salads too since it’s just that delicious.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Although my original recipe is clearly neither vegetarian nor vegan, it could easily be altered for those diet preferences. Vegetarians can simply ditch the bacon, and a pinch of salt to the dressing, and carry on as normal. Vegans will want to substitute maple syrup in lieu of the honey as well as nix the cheese. You may want to add another ingredient to round it out, dried cranberries or salted almonds would both be great options, depending on which flavor route you want to go.

Full of cinnamon flavor, tasty sweet potatoes and a tinge of sweetness, this would be a superb side dish to grace your Thanksgiving table. Instead of those overly sugary sweet potato and marshmallow concoctions normally served this time of year, this salad would be a healthier and more sophisticated twist for this year. Even better, you can absolutely make it ahead (even a few days!) and store it in the fridge until ready to use. It’s delicious cold, at room temperature, or warmed, so pick your favorite or the most convenient and serve it as such.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

The dressing makes a fair amount, so start with half of the recipe and stir in more to taste or serve on the side for guests to add as they like. I am personally a light dressing kind of person but many people prefer a stronger flavor, and it’s good to have options.

If you’re not doing the Thanksgiving thing, or don’t want to wait that long, this also make a great lunch. I made a batch on Sunday and got about 4-5 lunches out of it. Stored in the fridge, it reheated beautifully at work for the rest of the week. Additionally, if you’re not a fan of arugula, some kind of baby spring mix would be a great substitution.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad & Cinnamon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Inspired by Food for Thought and Just a Pinch
Serves 6-8 (side dish) or about 4 (lunch)

Ingredients

Salad
4 cups cubed sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

6 slices bacon (optional)1

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

5 oz arugula (or leafy veggie/mix of choice)
~4oz goat cheese (or brie, optional)1

Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, olive oil, and cinnamon. Stir with a rubber scraper until potatoes are well coated. Arrange in one layer on half of a cookie sheet.
  3. In the same bowl, combine walnuts and honey and stir until completely coated. (Heat the honey sightly to liquify for easier stirring.) Arrange in one layer on the other half of the cookie sheet.
  4. Arrange bacon in one layer on the other cookie sheet.
  5. Place cookie sheets in oven (I put the potatoes on the middle rung, and the bacon one rung below it) and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until walnuts are lightly toasted.
  6. Remove the walnuts to a plate to cool. Continue baking potatoes and bacon for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, and bacon is cooked to desired doneness.
  7. Remove bacon to paper towels to cool, pressing to remove excess grease. Dice bacon and set aside.
  8. Meanwhile, in a medium pot bring quinoa and water to a boil, then cover and simmer until all liquid is soaked up, about 15 minutes. Uncover and set aside.
  9. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until completely combined.
  10. In a large bowl, combine arugula and half the dressing, tossing to coat. Add quinoa and sweet potatoes, and stir gently until well combined.
  11. Add walnuts (breaking apart if necessary), diced bacon, and goat cheese, stirring gently to combine.
  12. Serve immediately, later today, or tomorrow since it’s good at pretty much any temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge, or make it ahead the night before. Reheats well with a brief stint in the microwave and is also excellent right out of the fridge.
  13. Add additional dressing just before serving if necessary, or serve it on the side.
  14. Delicious as a side dish (6-8 servings) or for a lighter lunch (4 servings).

Notes

For a vegetarian option, just leave out the bacon, it’s great without it too! To get that added salty flavor, add a pinch to the dressing or include a few chopped salted almonds in its place. Vegans could also use maple syrup and ditch the cheese, although you may want to add another ingredient (maybe dried cranberries?), and follow the same salty suggestion.

Vanilla Cinnamon Granola

Ah, spring. Sunny skies and reading books in the yard are definitely in my near future. Although, given Montana’s weather snow could possibly (probably) be in my near future as well, but I like to focus on the positive.

Vanilla Cinnamon Granola {{Baking Bytes}}

In the warmer months I often start my days with yogurt and granola instead of hot oatmeal. High protein and filling, with fresh fruit for color and flavor, it’s always makes for a pleasant morning. However, given the high sugar content of most yogurt and granola, it can easily turn into more of a dessert than a healthy breakfast. I’ve solved the yogurt problem by buying the plain kind and adding a small dollop of homemade jam, which takes those sugar grams down to a much more reasonable level without sacrificing flavor, since I don’t particularly care for the taste of unflavored yogurt.

Vanilla Cinnamon Granola {{Baking Bytes}}

However, after trying and failing (and trying and failing, and trying and failing) to find a granola with more grams of protein than sugar in each serving, I decided I should probably just make my own. Unfortunately, even most of the online recipes add a bunch of sugar!

Vanilla Cinnamon Granola {{Baking Bytes}}

(By the way, does it annoy anyone else when a recipe is touted as being sugar-free and then adds honey? This drives me insane. Honey is still sugar, people.)

I eventually found a recipe that legitimately doesn’t add any sugar, modified it slightly to fit my preferences (not a fan of cashews), and made a batch to try. It turned out pretty close to what I was looking for on the first attempt, which is always extra fantastic when trying new recipes. I later used inspiration from a very delicious but much more sugary recipe and took the best of both worlds to meet my needs.

Vanilla Cinnamon Granola {{Baking Bytes}}

Crunchy, nutty, and full of great cinnamon flavor, this recipe is easy to tailor to suit your tastes and needs, or just to mix it up a little with every batch. I used almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and quinoa but you can certainly use any nuts or seeds of your choice, just try to keep it between 1.5 and 2 cups total. I think macadamia nuts would be fantastic, as well as pumpkin seeds. If you like dried fruits or chocolate in your granola, definitely add some (after it’s completely cooled!), just bear in mind this can quickly increase the sugar content. Additionally, if you’re not sold on the no-sugar-added idea, throw some honey or brown sugar in there too.

Vanilla Cinnamon Granola {{Baking Bytes}}

Vanilla Cinnamon Granola

Inspired by Super Healthy Kids and Pastry Affair
Makes 4+ cups

Ingredients

4 egg whites
1 Tablespoon vanilla
up to 1/2 cup packed brown sugar or honey (optional)1

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped raw almonds
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 Tablespoon cinnamon2

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an edged baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Add egg whites to a large bowl and whip with an electric mixer until fluffy and opaque.
  3. Stir in vanilla and sugar (if using).
  4. Add oatmeal, nuts, seeds, quinoa, and cinnamon and stir until mixture is completely combined and moistened.
  5. Spread evenly on prepared baking sheet, ideally not more than 1/4″ thick.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes, until granola is golden and crisp. If you like a loose granola, stir it every 10 minutes or so.
  7. Let cool completely on the counter, then break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Notes

I used no sugar since that’s what I was looking for. As a topping on yogurt or fruit, I don’t miss it a bit, but it does results in a somewhat less chunky granola in the end. If you like it to stay in larger pieces, add 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar; if you eat it more as a cereal and/or are looking for a traditional flavor, I would add about 1/4 cup packed. If you are adding 1/4 cup or more of sugar, you can probably omit half the egg white, or all of it to maintain a looser granola.

If this seems like an absurd amount of cinnamon, feel free to cut it in half. It’s way easier to add more than it is to take it away.

Easy Cinnamon Roll Wreath

Hello and Happy Holidays friends! Hope you’re having an appropriately white or warm season depending on your location. I am visiting my family in Alaska for the holidays and it’s been pleasantly snowy here – quite the change from last year’s raining nonsense. Apologies for the late post, time at home always seems to go by much more quickly than real life.

In any case, this morning I have another easy pastry recipe to share. The overwhelming popularity of my Cream Cheese Danishes led me to try another style. A few months ago I saw a braided Nutella bread that looked beautiful. As you may now be aware, I am not a fan of Nutella but I really loved the idea of a twisted bread with a contrasting filling. Filing it away for future reference, several months passed before I took up the project.

Easy Cinnamon Roll Wreath {{Baking Bytes}}

I love cinnamon rolls any time of year but for some reason I always crave them even more around Christmas. The homemade version is quite a bit of work which makes them extra special (and extra tasty) so we don’t make them very often, except sometimes for Thanksgiving or Christmas breakfast. Pillsbury makes actual cinnamon rolls, of course, which are surprisingly good, but feel somewhat commonplace as far as excitement goes.

Easy Cinnamon Roll Wreath {{Baking Bytes}}

The idea for twisted bread returned to me and twisted cinnamon rolls were born. Using an easy cinnamon sugar filling and the pre-made dough makes for a super quick breakfast or pretty dessert without the hassle and tediousness of dealing with yeast and rising times. Small enough for the family or simple enough to make several for the office, these are a pretty way to switch up the traditional and delicious flavors of a cinnamon roll.

Easy Cinnamon Roll Wreath {{Baking Bytes}}

Sure to please both the kids and the coworkers, this is a great holiday option for all the busy people out there.

Easy Cinnamon Roll Wreath

Makes 8 small servings

Ingredients

1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls1

2 Tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 oz cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1-3 Tbsp milk (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. On an extra sheet of parchment paper, unroll the dough and pinch the seams together. Put face down on the prepared baking sheet and then gently peel off the parchment paper. Pinch the seams together from this side also.
  3. Spread 2 Tbsp butter over the dough.
  4. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon until well mixed, then sprinkle evenly over the dough, leaving about 1/2 inch clear on one long end.
  5. From the other long end, gently roll up the dough and then pinch closed.
  6. Carefully cut down longwise down the center of the rolled dough (a plastic pizza cutter works great, and won’t damage your silicon mats or your baking sheet). Gently turn the cut side facing up.
  7. Carefully lift one side and place it over the other dough strip, repeating on the same side to form a twist. Gently move into a circle and pinch the ends together.
  8. Bake for about 18 minutes. It should be browned on the top and not doughy in the middle.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: beat together cream cheese and 2 Tbsp butter until fluffy, then beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in milk 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency – less milk for spreading, more milk for drizzling.
  10. Let the cinnamon roll cool for a couple of minutes, then transfer to your serving plate and spread/drizzle with the frosting. (You will likely have frosting left over, so feel free to halve the recipe if you don’t like lots of it.)
  11. Serve immediately with coffee for a lovely snack, or eggs and fruit for a more well-rounded breakfast.

Notes

Any of the styles should work, although they may all bake up slightly differently, so watch carefully and adjust the baking time accordingly. For example, the “big and flaky” version would probably need a couple more minutes in the oven.

Roasted Cinnamon Almonds

Today’s recipe is inspired by Costco. Costco is one of my favorite stores to peruse because they have awesome stuff in all categories from housewares to clothing to food. The samples are also a pretty fantastic perk, although M and I don’t often go to Costco during sample time so we can avoid the crowds. A few weeks ago I made a quick stop in the afternoon to pick up one of the fake orchids they have (which I’m still psyched about) and made the sample rounds while I was there. One of the things I came across was roasted cinnamon sugar almonds.

Normally I’m not a big nut person (the notable exception being almond roca) but I thought I’d give these a try on a whim, and holy crap they are amazing. To be fair, I’m pretty sure they are like 75% sugar so basically it’s cinnamon almond candy, but nonetheless they were fantastic. It gave me the idea to make my own, less candy-like version at home.

Roasted Cinnamon Almonds {{Baking Bytes}}

Doing my usual Pinterest perusal came up with mostly very similar recipes, which I modified to fit my own needs. I wasn’t really looking for a sugary snack this time around, but if you’re wanting a sweeter recipe, like for holiday gifts, I give a range of sugar amounts in my notes below the recipe.

Crunchy roasted almonds coated with cinnamon and sugar are a high-protein and tasty option for any time of day. Make them without sugar for a healthy snack, or add the sugar for a sweet treat. I personally like both options, although the latter is probably more of a crowd pleaser. (They also turn out shinier, and ergo prettier, like the ones pictured.)

Roasted Cinnamon Almonds {{Baking Bytes}}

They do take a while to bake, but the process is pretty low maintenance and makes your house smell lovely. You could also definitely make two batches at a time if you have two lipped cookie sheets – the almonds will keep for at least a couple of weeks.

Roasted Cinnamon Almonds

Adapted from the Internet
Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

1 egg white
1 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 tsp cinnamon
up to 1/2 cup brown sugar, to taste

4 cups raw almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an edged baking sheet with a silicon mat (or parchment paper) and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients except almonds.
  3. Add almonds, and stir until they are well coated with the cinnamon mixture.
  4. Spread evenly on prepared baking sheet. It’s okay if they touch but you don’t want a pile.
  5. Bake for 60-90 minutes, stirring them once or twice. I like mine more roasted so I went closer to 90 minutes, but they are great after an hour also. Give one a taste (carefully) and see what you think.
  6. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Notes

Using no sugar is still delicious and a healthier treat, or 1/4 cup gives a relatively mild sweet flavor. If you’re looking for something really sugary (more along the lines of Costco’s version), add up to 1/2 cup of sugar, feeling free to use up to half white sugar if you prefer.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cookies

Hello friends, hope you’ve successfully made the switch to February. Bozeman leaped right passed it into April as we continue to have weather in the 50’s. As someone who actually enjoys winter, and skiing, and cold-weather running, I find this very depressing. I also am hoping this does not mean we have a hellish summer ahead of us or I think I’ll move back to Alaska for July.

In any case, cookies. With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, Pinterest and the rest of the internet has been overrun with pink and chocolate. I decided to ignore all of these things and make something completely different this weekend.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cookies {{Baking Bytes}}

These cookies are soft and have a wonderful brown sugar flavor spiced with cinnamon. Kind of a cross between snickerdoodles and gingersnaps, they are a simple pleasure and a delightful treat for any time of year. They do require a couple hours of chilling, but I expect I’ll be making these pretty often in spite of that. Bonus: for those of you without a stand mixer, these cookies are mixed by hand – no electricity required.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cookies {{Baking Bytes}}

The original recipe called for dark brown sugar but I only had light on hand. They are delicious regardless but I imagine they’d be extra flavorful if you’ve got the dark option lying around.

As a fall or winter refreshment these go great with coffee or hot chocolate. If you’re looking to cool them down for summer activities, they are awesome as ice cream cookie sandwiches. Just put a scoop of softened ice cream on a cookie, and press another cookie on top until the ice cream is spread out to the side. Serve immediately or store in the freezer, but pull them out a few minutes early before serving. Yum!

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cookies {{Baking Bytes}}

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes about 22 cookies

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon (I used a whole tsp)
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
1 egg, room temp
2 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp white sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a small-medium bowl, whisk together melted butter and brown sugar until completely combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk thoroughly.
  3. Add wet mixture to dry and use a rubber spatula to stir until completely mixed. Dough will be wet and soft but should be thick. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
  4. Pour 2 Tbsp sugar into a bowl or deep plate. After dough has chilled, roll 2 Tbsp dough into a ball, then roll in the sugar to coat. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Return dough balls to the refrigerator, preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and line baking sheets with silicon baking mats or parchment paper.
  6. Bake cookies for 12-16 minutes. They will look soft and puffy but should not look super wet in the cracks. For extra soft cookies, use the lower end of the range; for a slight crunch on the outside, use the upper end.
  7. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack.
  8. Cookies stay soft for several days in an airtight container on the counter…assuming you haven’t eaten them all already.

Notes

To quickly bring an egg to room temperature, place it in a cup of warm water for 5-10 minutes.