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.

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Cardamom Carrot Cupcakes

Hello all you fine people, hope your October is going splendidly. I have finished two of three half marathons for the month (in Victoria, BC and Chattanooga, TN) and am currently spending the week in Iowa for work before heading to Oregon for my final race. Quite the trip seeing several friends and doing all the races, but I’m sure I’ll be glad to be home next week.

Cardamom Carrot Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

In any case, I’ve gone back to my usual sugary treats and have a lovely cupcake recipe for you today. During the month of September I gave up foods with added sugar (which was awful and I’ll probably never do that again) and so the first weekend of October I went a little crazy with the baking and made pumpkin bread, these cupcakes, and a surprise bonus post for next week. (Spoiler: it involves pumpkin.) I used new mini loaf pans for the pumpkin bread and they worked fantastically. (These pans, if you’re curious.)

Cardamom Carrot Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

I’d been wanting to make these cupcakes for awhile now, but carrot always feels like fall to me so I put it off all summer long. Although the original recipe is not spiced, I used spices from another Cupcake Project recipe I’d made several years ago. I’d enjoyed the latter recipe greatly but with the multitude of flavors going on it was just a bit overwhelming for me. When she posted her “spring” version earlier this year, it seemed much more my speed.

Cardamom Carrot Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

A light carrot and honey flavor enhanced with a few fall spices makes for a wonderful and somewhat unique flavor. The texture of the cupcake is fantastic and they rose perfectly for me which is always a nice surprise. Also, I tried out these cupcake liners I bought at Costco earlier this year and they are AMAZING. They unwrap from the cupcake with absolutely zero sticking which I was extremely excited about. Cannot recommend them enough.

Cardamom Carrot Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

In any case, if you’re looking for a fall treat that is maybe a little different from the norm, these are the cupcakes for you. I decided to pair them with the frosting from the original recipe because it is incredible and a totally different flavor from the usual maple and cinnamon of the season.

Cardamom Carrot Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

I hope you enjoy the concoction or use the recipes to create your own. And also check back next week for a fun Halloween idea.

Cardamom Carrot Cupcakes

Adapted from Cupcake Project
Makes about 18 cupcakes

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp

2 eggs

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 18 cupcake wells with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Mix in honey and butter (yes, by hand) until completely combined.
  4. Stir in eggs one at a time, then add lemon juice.
  5. Fold in carrots and crystallized ginger.
  6. Fill each cupcake well with about 1/4 cup of batter, and bake 20 minutes. Tops should spring back when pressed gently.
  7. Let cool completely, then frost as desired.

Cardamom Cream Cheese Frosting

Borrowed from Cupcake Project
Frosts 14-20 cupcakes

Ingredients

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. This will take a couple of minutes.
  2. Gently stir in powdered sugar one cup at a time, adding more or less if you prefer a stiffer or looser frosting, respectively.
  3. Beat in cardamom and vanilla until completely combined and mixture is fluffy again, about 30 seconds.
  4. Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes and enjoy.

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Treats

Hi friends. It’s been somewhat rainy and gray here but I’m sharing a summer treat anyway. This is one of my favorite easy snacks and childhood memories all rolled into one. I’m not sure how often we actually had these as kids, but I remember it being a lot and them being awesome. I still make them semi regularly since they keep in the freezer pretty well.

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Treats {{Baking Bytes}}

Peanut butter mixed with honey makes for a sweet flavor without being terribly unhealthy. Plus bananas! Bananas are healthy. Graham crackers aren’t terrible for you, probably, so all in all it’s a pretty solid choice. Protein and fruit, can’t go wrong. The freezer makes these into a fabulous summer snack for a hot day when you don’t want ice cream. Or your parents won’t let you have ice cream, whatever the case may be.

Even though I set my own dessert rules now, I still like these as a healthier alternative without feeling like I’m depriving myself of deliciousness. Nice and cold on a hot day and perfect for satiating a sweet tooth. Yum.

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Treats {{Baking Bytes}}

This is a super simple recipe so really there’s not much more to say…other than I suppose if you’re not a peanut butter fan (weirdo) you could use some other kind of nut butter, or I guess Nutella (gross) if you’re into that sort of thing. I typically use roughly a 1-to-1 ratio of peanut butter and honey but it doesn’t really matter that much so long as you end up with about a half cup total, otherwise you won’t have enough for all your crackers. My mom, for example, uses more like a 4-to-1 ratio, so really just go with whatever suits you.

Prepare for hot, lazy days and stick some of these in the freezer now, then later applaud yourself for being so forward-thinking.

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Treats {{Baking Bytes}}

PS – If you think of a better name for these, let me know. I was not feeling creative.

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Treats

Adapted from childhood
Makes about 8 treats

Ingredients

1 package (8-9 sheets) Graham crackers

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter

2 small (narrow) ripe bananas

Directions

  1. Carefully break Graham crackers into squares. I like to gently press a knife along the perforation to do this cleanly.
  2. Mix honey and peanut butter together until smooth. Feel free to adjust the proportions!
  3. Spread honey mixture on one side of all crackers.
  4. Slice bananas into approximately 1/4″ pieces.
  5. Top half of the crackers with banana slices and place another cracker on top (peanut butter side down, of course.)
  6. Carefully wrap each sandwich in aluminum foiland place in the freezer several hours, or overnight.2
  7. Enjoy straight out of the freezer on a hot day.

Notes

For my British friends, Digestives work great also. Since they are a little thicker, you may want to use more of the honey mixture per cracker biscuit.

Or use plastic wrap and put them all in a freezer Ziploc.