May has always been a month that has brought change to my life. Twelve years ago this May, a 20 year old me dropped out of a creative writing program at the University of Victoria, crammed some essentials into a suitcase, and left Canada alone for the first time, flying to New Zealand to work for a family with whom I had exchanged a few emails and chatted a couple of times on the phone. Two years ago I left the stable, decently paying full time job I had held for the better part of a decade to go to school full time and finish the degree I had been plugging away at part time for many years. And now, May again, and I have completed a degree in Food, Nutrition, and Health. Finally. In fact, I just went online and checked the status of my application to graduate and read the words, "Graduation Approved". I won't really feel that it's really over until I've walked across the stage and been handed a piece of paper that says so, but for all intents and purposes, it's done. I'm done. I finished it.
Completing this degree was no easy road and there were more than a few moments where I considered quitting and thought, during particularly self-deprecating times, that perhaps I just wasn't cut out for this. At times this path I took put considerable strain on my marriage, my friendships, and my sense of self. I remember a particularly miserable time (organic chemistry may have had something to do with it) when I rode my bike home from school, whipping down hills in the dark and rain and quite literally wished a car would hit me so that I may spend a few days in bed and no one would expect me to do anything. Paul's amazing new job in Sweden added another dimension of complexity to our lives, and my decision (which I did not make lightly) to stay behind and finish school was not an easy thing. But I survived it. We survived it. Marriage intact, friendships firm (and in fact, wonderful new friendships gained along the way), and sense of self better than ever.
So, May. Again, change is around the corner. What's next? Well, May 31st I walk across the stage and get my piece of paper. Then the next day I jump on a plane with as much of my stuff as I can cram into two hideously over-weight bags, and make the trip back to Stockholm. And then? I have no idea. Actually, I have ideas, I just have no idea how things are going to unfold. It's equally exciting and terrifying, and I can't wait to see what comes next.
After I wrote my last exam I had a wee celebration. I made these sweet potato lentil quinoa cakes for a part of the spread. They were super delish, and about 50% of them fell apart while they baked, so there were some cakes and some crumbles. They all got eaten. I decided to try re-working the recipe and made a few minor changes to see if they would hold together better. I also tried pan-frying a few to see if they would hold together better than those that were oven baked. The trick, it seems, is making little baby cakes, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. The oven baked ones turned out better than pan fried, but the pan fried ones were by no means terrible. These baby cakes are vegan, gluten free, and packed full of super foods. I find most veggie patties are too bready for me to want to eat them sandwiched in a bun, but I did smush two patties into a burger bun at our Mother's day burger extravaganza, loaded with veggies and garlic mayo, it made a fine burger. These patties are also great alongside a salad, or on their own with a bit of chutney. Give them a try.
Sweet Potato Lentil Quinoa Baby Cakes Recipe:
These baby cakes have a great balance of smoky and sweet. The sweetness of the sweet potato is balanced by the smokiness of ground cumin, and the patties are studded with currants and green onion. The recipe makes about 20 baby cakes, depending on how big or small you form them. Left over patties freeze well. If you cook the lentils, quinoa, and sweet potatoes ahead of time, the recipe comes together quite quickly.
½ cup uncooked quinoa
½ cup dried green, brown, or beluga lentils*
2 small or 1 medium sweet potato (about ¾ cup when roasted and mashed)
¼ cup dried currants
¼ cup finely diced green onion
2 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon sea salt
olive oil for the pan
Heat your oven to 400 F / 200 C and roast the sweet potatoes until tender. Set aside, cool, peel, and mash. You should have around ¾ cup of mash.
Rinse quinoa and add to a small pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Set aside and cool.
Pick over lentils, rinse, and set in pot covered with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain, and cool.
Combine mashed sweet potato, lentils, and quinoa in a large bowl. Add currants, green onion, cumin, and salt. Stir to combine well.
Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and brush the parchment paper with olive oil. Form sweet potato mixture into small patties and set onto prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops of the patties lightly with oil for even browning. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the tray from the oven and carefully turn the patties over. Bake for another 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then serve.
*I desperately wanted to make these with beluga lentils so I could call them baby beluga cakes. But du puy lentils was what was in my cupboard, and baby du puy cakes doesn't quite sound the same, so sweet potato lentil quinoa baby cakes it is.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2011