My mom shuffled through the door balancing a suitcase and an over-packed and poorly-duct-taped box, and my dad carried his weight in tote bags filled with winter coats, spiral-bound notebooks, and packets of sticky notes. A pale and sheepish mono-ridden version of myself followed them carrying just a pillow and my worn patterned-purse across my chest. We navigated our way through the narrow hallways and up to the fifth floor. The short blonde boy carrying my guitar case and wearing an Orientation t-shirt smiled and informed us that the same man who designed my building also designed prisons. I mustered up a half-grin and chuckle but began to question my sanity in moving into a prison-like dormitory a day after being diagnosed with mono. But my stubborn mind was set: I was going to college rain or shine, and that was that.
A year later, I’m driving a Subaru Outback along the road that winds through cow pastures, dairy farms, and small Vermont towns. Just like the year prior, the car is packed with suitcases and a seemingly never-ending supply of roasted almonds, yet this time I’m alone except for the comforting voice of James Taylor, who has faithfully accompanied me for the past few hours as I play his Greatest Hits on repeat. When I drive over the final hill and see the blue sign welcoming me to campus, I turn off the music and roll down the windows. After a three-month hiatus of traveling and soaking in the sun from my trusty lifeguard stand, it feels like I’m coming home.
And somehow we’ve gotten to today: a year and a half after the day I walked onto campus as “that girl with mono” and a semester after my epic solo road trip filled with almonds and my mediocre singing along to James Taylor. Thirteen courses taken, hundreds of Word documents added to my MacBook’s hard drive, and a major finally declared (helloooo International Studies department). I’m three semesters in and not quite sure where the time has gone. Sometimes it feels like yesterday that I awkwardly introduced myself to my freshman roommate and told her that my name was pronounced like “Slayer” without the l. On the other hand, it seems like eons have passed since the moment I held a pencil in my sweaty palm and flipped open to a blank white page of a blue book to take my first midterm last fall.
This past semester was full of both fun shenanigans and challenging academic endeavors. One day I ran through an apple orchard with friends, and another time I took up residence in the basement of the library for twelve hours to crank out papers like it was my job. Of all those assignments, one in particular stands out in my mind—probably because it satisfied my sweet tooth and allowed me to spend some quality time getting to know our newly renovated and beautiful kitchen. For my Food Geographies class, I studied the North Carolina Sweet Potato and put together a collection of recipes. Basically, this translated to me returning home for Thanksgiving and making nine sweet potato recipes in approximately 48 hours. I’m not going to lie—the recipes were definitely either a hit or miss. Of all of our sweet potato concoctions, two of the “hits” were the super easy baked sweet potato fries and the sweet potato smoothie. The fries are a consistent crowd pleaser, and the smoothie was an unexpected and refreshing surprise. Cheers to your own sweet potato adventures!
Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Source: Modified from Paula Deen, Food Network
Ingredients: Olive oil, for tossing, 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch long slices then ¼ inch wide strips, using a crinkle cut knife, 1 tablespoon house seasoning, ½ teaspoon paprika
House Seasoning: 1 cup salt, ¼ cup black pepper, ¼ cup garlic powder. Mix together and store for up to 6 months.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Line a sheet tray with parchment. In a large bowl toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat. Sprinkle with House Seasoning and paprika. Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet, being sure not to overcrowd. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: Calories: 273; Fat: 9.5g (Saturated Fat: 1g); Protein: 4g; Carbohydrates: 44g; Sugar: 9g; Fiber 7g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 1,670mg
Sweet Potato Smoothies
Source: Brigette Shevy on Money Saving Mom
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients: ½ cup sweet potato, cooked and chilled, 1 frozen banana, cut in thirds, ½ yellow apple, cored, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla, ½ cup milk, 1 cup ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a Vita-mix or a high-powered blender. Blend on high until smooth. Serve immediately.