Sweet Potato Cashew Cream Sauce With Brown Rice Pasta

sweet potato cashew cream sauce

sweet potato cashew cream sauce

This sweet potato cashew cream sauce recipe kind of happened by accident.

I was perusing through Mckel Hill’s book Nutrition Stripped when I stumbled upon a recipe for a butternut squash vegan cream sauce. It sounded so damn good that I was determined to make it that night (and I was excited because I had all the ingredients at home!).

Except when I got home I realized my butternut squash went bad :(. I was so invested in making it that I decided to go rogue and make the sauce with sweet potatoes instead.

With a few tweaks, here is what I got:

Sweet Potato Cashew Cream Sauce + Brown Rice Pasta

Ingredients:

8 oz brown rice pasta
1.5 cups peas (I used frozen)
2 small/medium sweet potatoes, about 2 cups
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or light coconut milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup cashews
½ cup vegetable or chicken broth (more or less depending on the preferred consistency)

Directions:

Sauce:

Soak cashews in water for 2 hours. If in a rush you can soak in warmer water for less time but do not put it in boiling water.

Preheat oven to 400F to roast the sweet potatoes.

Peel sweet potatoes and slice them to roast. Mix sweet potatoes, olive oil and salt and pepper into a bowl. Line tray with aluminum foil place sweet potatoes on tray. Pop it into the oven for 25 minutes.

Once the sweet potatoes are done cooking add them to your Vitamix (or a powerful blender) along with the nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, cashews, almond milk and chicken stock. Pulse slowly, and add more liquid if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta:

Set water to boil and add a dash of salt. Once the water begins to bubble, add pasta and cook on medium/medium high for 15-16 minutes (or follow instructions for your pasta). Add peas to flash cook for 3 minutes and then strain water from pasta. Add a little olive oil to pasta if desired.

You can pour the sauce over the pasta and warm it on low heat. But I liked using a separate saucepan to keep the sauce and pasta separate.

The sweet potato cashew cream sauce would be a perfect topper for sautéed vegetables or zoodles!

The Three Most Important Changes In My Wellness Journey

akansha-agrawal-fitness-blogger

akansha-agrawal-fitness-blogger

I’ve learned a lot about myself ever since I started my health & wellness journey five years ago. Five years ago fitness, nutrition, and mental health were not top of mind. My overall well-being was not a priority.

Luckily, the tables have turned but the changes have not easy nor straightforward.

When I first started exploring the realm of fitness, I discovered influencers in bodybuilding who would lift heavy, count their macros, and “cut” for a few weeks after “bulking” for a few months. I briefly fell into that trap and was told to try competing in a bikini competition (yeah no thanks).

Another example is I when I tried to steer towards a vegan diet: I added more soy-based proteins to help supplement my diet (yikes) and never really felt satisfied. It took me a while to realize that it’s okay to eat (good quality) meat and I should eat what my body craves.

These are just a couple of examples of things that didn’t work for me in the end (but hey it may work for others!). Here are three things that do work:

Meditating: Yes again, I know. How cliche right? But guess what guys, even 5 – 10 minutes of breathing, sitting, and doing nothing has helped me so much with my stress and anxiety. Whenever I fall off from meditation I feel my anxiety creeping back again.

Working with a nutritionist: I didn’t start seeing a nutritionist for what most people would think — losing weight. I actually consulted a nutritionist when my digestive issues became too much to bear. My nutritionist Mary Vance has helped my heal my gut (almost!) and has helped me see nutrition in a different light. I promise to post on this topic soon because there is so much to be said here!

Finding fitness buddies: Having friends or people you can workout with has been life-changer! When I first started I’d almost always workout alone for two reasons: 1. I didn’t know many other people who made it a priority (clearly I wasn’t looking hard enough) and 2. I was afraid others would judge me. Once I got over that fear, my life was changed. I started training with Fleet Feet for half marathons, met girls from the Tone It Up Bay Area community and was also more willing to try different kinds of group fitness classes with friends.

So obviously, this is what works for me and those “a-ha” moments may be different for others. Regardless, I do think there are certain take-aways for all:

-Try meditating with Headspace. It’s only 10 minutes long!
-Pay attention to what you eating. Does it make you feel good? Are you eating mindfully, eating whole foods? A nutritionist can be expensive but if you want some basic guidelines on nutrition, the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan is a good start.
– Find a local running group (Lululemon has one, or check out The November Project), or try different group fitness classes with friends. It’s always easier with a buddy :).

It’s like something finally clicked in my mind when I started doing each one of the three things I mentioned above. I’d love to know what works for you in your own wellness journey.

Why Every Young Professional Should Have A Side Hustle

This post is a little more buttoned up than my usual because I actually published this on LinkedIn first. It was kind of a big deal for me for a few reasons: One, publishing on LinkedIn adds a bit more pressure because all professional eyes are on you. It’s so much easier writing posts for my blog! Two, it was my first time I publicly mentioned my blog as a “side hustle”. Sure many people knew I had a blog, but I finally confessed that it’s much more than a hobby. It takes too much damn time to be a hobby. And finally, I work full-time at LinkedIn so it’s a big deal to me talking about what I do outside of my full-time job.

Hope you enjoy!

We millennials are known to want it all. We are known to be restless and a little naive, but I don’t think that’s necessarily bad.

Our itch to do more, be more, drives us closer to our dreams and goals. Yet the desire alone isn’t enough — we have to work for it.

Many of us have turned to side hustles: part-time gigs that supplement and complement our nine-to-five, and help us get closer to our long-term career and life goals. Some of us are creating our own clothing brands, others are picking up photography, blogging, or design. For others, the side hustle may be something as simple as working at a coffee shop or driving for a ride-sharing app. No matter what the hustle may be, almost all of them are stepping stones toward a larger goal.

Personally, I’ve been working a corporate job the last few years, and I’ve recently started to invest more in my passions by finding ways to monetize them. Alongside my full-time job as an insights analyst, I also teach group fitness and run my own wellness blog.

Side hustles are extremely beneficial when you are young and new in your career for a few reasons:

1. You appreciate your full-time job way more

The more you start investing in your side hustle, the more you come to appreciate the benefits from your full-time gig! With a side hustle, you don’t get the nice perks (goodbye health insurance and 401K!), you don’t have a team to lean on, and you may not even have the luxury of an office. It’s hard running your own business, and you sometimes forget the little (and the big) things you’ve been taking for granted. It’s a very humbling process.

2. You get to be your own boss — and learn from the good and bad

So you may miss out on the comforts of a corporate job, but with a side hustle you get to have 100-percent control over you and your business, which can be both terrifying and amazing. I’ve experienced more rejection, self-doubt, and excitement with my side hustles than I ever have with my full-time job. I’ve grown both personally and professionally from these key moments and I know these learnings will help with my career down the line.

3. You diversify your skill set

Many skills you pick up a corporate setting are very applicable to your side hustles, and vice versa. For example, public speaking is a skill I’ve always wanted to perfect — I’ve tried Toastmasters and other projects at my job, and they all helped to an extent. However, through teaching group fitness, I’ve seen a bigger improvement in my public speaking skills in the last couple of months than I have in the last few years; it’s because I threw myself into a job that forces me to get better.

4. You become a pro with time management

All right, so “pro” might be a stretch, but you do get much better with your time when you have more responsibilities added to your plate (just ask any new parent!). If you want to pursue your own idea and also keep your nine-to-five, you have to find a way to make it work. That may mean scheduling everything down to the hour, waking up earlier in the morning to work on your idea, or just being more efficient with your time (ie, not checking Instagram every hour…).

5. You professional network gets even bigger

Finally, through your side hustle, you expand and diversify your network. When you grow your professional network, you have the opportunity to learn and understand different perspectives from a wide variety of people. The breadth of your network can be very valuable; you are more aware about how other people work, you understand how business is conducted in different industries, and you have a chance to make new friends!

For those of you pursuing your own side hustles, what advice/learnings do you have from your personal experience?

This Saffron Tea Could Be The Next Golden Milk (Recipe)

saffron tea almond milk

I don’t consider myself to be a food blogger (there are tons out there that are much more skilled than I am) but I do find happiness in creating simple, no-BS recipes every once in a while. Plus I get a lot of requests to share more recipes!

While I was in India earlier this year I went to a yoga studio in Mumbai called The Yoga House. Attached to the yoga studio, there was a really cute café which served American classics —like a PB&J — to traditional Indian food with a healthy spin (think quinoa upma).

I saw that they had saffron tea on their menu and I was intrigued because I had never heard of anything like it before! I was surprised how good yet simple it was. Plus I felt like a queen drinking it because saffron ain’t cheap.

I recreated the original recipe and also added my own twist by making one with almond milk and honey. I loved the creaminess of the second one!

Move over turmeric, there’s a new golden milk in town.

The New Golden Milk (i.e. Saffron Tea with Almond Milk):

Serving size: one

  • 4 oz water
  • 4 oz Califia Farms Almond Milk, original (it adds the perfect amount of sweetness)
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp of honey (optional)

mortar-pestle

Instructions:

Boil water in a saucepan. Crush cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle (other option is to wrap cardamom pods in a paper towel and crush it with a glass jar if you don’t have a mortar and pestle) and add to the saucepan. Let it boil for a minute or so and then add the almond milk.

Add saffron strands then turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Place the almonds at the bottom of the tea up and pour in the tea. Stir in honey if desired. Enjoy!

Alternative recipe: follow the same instructions but omit the almond milk to create the original saffron tea I tried at The Yoga House in Mumbai.

saffron-tea

Health benefits: Saffron is known to have anti-oxidants

The hardest part of these recipes is making sure you have saffron because it’s not something everyone have lying around in their spice cabinet. Luckily, you can find it easily at any Indian grocery store or even on Amazon.

Like this recipe? Well then I’m sure you’d also like try this one for a raw turmeric latte!

This herbal saffron tea with almond milk and honey may be replacing your turmeric lattes, aka golden milk

How I am Making the Tone it Up Bikini Series My Own

 

tone-it-up-bikini-series

This year I’ve finally decided to participate in the Tone It Up Bikini Series: an 8 week fitness challenge hosted by the founders of Tone It Up, Karena & Katrina. It’s a big step for me because I’ve never successfully completed a fitness challenge before.

Some challenges had way too many rules, other’s didn’t speak to me, but other times I just I didn’t believe in myself. Not too long ago, I was still working on improving my relationship with food & exercise. Whoa, I think that’s the first time I’m ever mentioning that online. That’s a big deal for me.

I’d find myself obsessing over my food & body much more than I’d like. I’d compare myself to others far too much and spent too much time criticizing my own flaws. I was aware of my somewhat “unhealthy mindset” and I knew a fitness challenge may make me focus more on the superficial than I should.

It’s taken me a lot of trial and error to get to where I am now but I am at the point where I feel comfortable and happy with my relationship with fitness. I’m ready to give this challenge a shot.

I’m someone who marches to the beat of their own drum so I don’t think I’d be successful if I tried to follow all the rules of the challenge. For example, I’m not exactly following the TIU meals on their nutrition plan nor I am doing all of the TIU workouts. They do, however, serve as helpful guidelines.

Everyone has different goals for the Bikini Series but here are my top 3 I’d like to achieve:

My Goals:

  1. Successfully complete my first challenge. Really all I want is to keep my motivation going for 8 weeks. And I want to make sure I continuously love and accept myself the way I am the entire way through it. One week down already!
  2. Become a morning person: my goal is to wake up by 6:30 at least 4 times a week to either get in a morning workout (aka “Booty Call”) or to take time to write for my blog. Two of those four days I teach, so it’s really only 2 more days I need to get motivated for.
  3. Prep my meals. I’m lucky to be fed both breakfast and lunch at work so I really only need to prepare one healthy snack and dinner for each day. I easily get stressed/overwhelmed by cooking and I want this challenge to make my life easier! I’ll definitely be using the meal plan for inspiration.

I know I wouldn’t be sticking to this challenge without my accountability groups. I’m part of two group threads with other women who are participating in this challenge. We don’t only talk about working out, but literally everything and anything in life. Everyone is so supportive and kind. I’m a bit introverted so I was scared I’d be overwhelmed but it is quite nice I must say :).

Okay that’s all I have to say about the Bikini Series now. I feel even more accountable sharing this online.

Do you have any questions about it? Shall I do another update in a few weeks? Are you doing it as well? Let me know in the comments below!

Santa Cruz Half Marathon

Hi!

I’m back to the blog. Honestly after this race I felt like I lost my motivation and discipline and needed sometime to get back to my routine. I’ve also been traveling these past few weekends so it was hard to make time for blogging with my 9-5, teaching, and life in general!

Anyways, race recap blog posts hold a special place in my heart. I started writing these posts back in college and it’s always so fun for me to look back at them years later and relive the race experience. I feel like they are posts I write for myself more than anyone else but hopefully you still find them entertaining ☺.

I usually recap the race by breaking it down into mile chunks but honestly I didn’t feel too differently in mile 3 than I did at mile 10! So instead, I’ll focus on three key factors of the race: mind, body, and nutrition.

MIND:

I was genuinely so excited about the Santa Cruz Half Marathon. It was a great excuse for a one-day getaway to a beach town with my parents and my boyfriend and I was excited for a chance to run another race after my IT band injury last year.

I didn’t experience the normal anxiety and nerves I usually do with half marathons and I think there are a couple of reasons for that. Number one, I’ve done a few half marathons by now so I know what to expect at a race; two, I didn’t put too much pressure on myself for a finishing time. Yes I knew I wanted a sub 2 hour final time but if I didn’t achieve it I knew there would be more races.

BODY:

Training was relatively short at eight weeks but it was consistent. I ran three times a week and paired my runs with strength training and POP Pilates training. I feel like core strength and lower body strength made a huge difference in a running. Thanks to Fleet Feet SF’s training program, my runs were a mix of hill training, speed work, and challenging long runs!

NUTRITION:

This was my first half marathon after I started to work with a nutritionist and my diet change helped a lot with my energy levels. In the past I’d feel tired and uncomfortable after long runs and I think it’s because I’d refuel with food that didn’t sit well with my stomach. This time around I had more control of my energy level.

THE OUTCOME:

I PRed at a time of 1:52*!! I shaved off 10 minutes my last PR: part of the difference is due to the fact that SC is far less hilly than SF, but I also think the mind, body, and nutrition prep did wonders.

I felt like a million bucks right after the race but a couple of days later I felt like I lost all discipline. I think I need a new goal again ☺.

*1:52 is my approximated time because for some silly reason the race ended at 12.7 miles…I had so much more energy left in me I wish it kept on going! I added 5 minutes to my official time of 1:47:18 to get my PR time.

Santa-cruz-half-marathon