Sweet Potato Jack-O’-Lanterns With Chocomole Frosting. Plus, Melissa’s Wedding Recap!

by Gena on October 21, 2013

sweet potato jack o lanterns

I like to think of myself as a pretty decent cook, but I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses. Creative salads? Killer chia pudding recipes? Sweet and savory salad dressings? I’m your girl. But ask me to decorate anything intricate, and all bets are off. I’ve got a steady hand, but I didn’t inherit any of my mom’s artistic talent. Usually, a couple of sprinkles is about all I can handle.

Nevertheless, I’m all about pushing my limits, so once in a while, I try to get crafty. Last week, this took the form of the cute little baked sweet potato rounds you see above, which are decorated with my chocomole to look like little Jack-O’-Lanterns. (Kind of.)

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While sweet potato and chocolate might sound like an odd combination, I promise you that it’s highly delicious. So delicious that I’ve even made chocomole with sweet potato mixed right in, and loved it. Sweet potato is a wonderful idea for when you’re craving something sweet but not sugary, and somehow the rich tones of chocolate are a perfect accompaniment. If you’d like to skip the crafty part and simply turn this recipe into baked sweet potato rounds smothered in chocomole, or decorated with a little dollop of the stuff, that’s perfect. But in the spirit of Halloween–one of my favorite holidays by far–I thought I’d do something a little different :-)

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I used a piping bag to make these decorations (about $8.50 on Amazon), but you can also whip up the chocomole and put it into a plastic bag that’s had one corner snipped off to make a very small opening. Use a steady hand, and work confidently!

So, I won’t be winning any awards for my piping skills in the near future. But I tried. This one, for example, was supposed to resemble a pumpkin.

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Whether you’re a skilled decorated or a relative novice like me, these little treats are delicious–equally enticing as a snack or as dessert. Whip up some chocomole, bake and then slice up a sweet potato, and see for yourself!

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Switching topics, I spent this past weekend in beautiful Saratoga Springs, NY, to celebrate my dear friend Melissa’s wedding.

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I had a blast in so many different ways: I got to enjoy upstate NY and its rich fall foliage, hang with the Melissa’s lovely friends (my fellow bridesmaids), and especially to reconnect with Ashley, whom I hadn’t seen for years!

The weekend began with a scenic drive from NYC to Saratoga. Liz, my fellow bridesmaid and instant friend, kindly gave me a ride up. We were able to catch some of the leaves turning–always a sight to behold.

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At the rehearsal dinner on Friday, I quickly found Ashley and her husband, Bo. The first time we all met, it was at Melissa’s place for a summery rooftop party. I hadn’t even begun blogging yet. Bo claims that I struck him as the most “New York” person he’d ever met. (He also reminded me that I spent the entire evening chain smoking my way through a pack of Camel lights, which struck us all as pretty funny now.) Ashley and Bo are having an adventure as ex-pats in London and Geneva, and I’m adjusting to a big career switch, so we traded thoughts about life change, staying positive about upheaval, and embracing adventure. It was really lovely to reconnect.

Gena and Ashley

Friday night was also a chance to catch up with Melissa, who was already looking radiant and handling all of the details of her pre-wedding day with ease and grace. Here she and I are, along with Liz:

Gena Liz Mel

On Saturday morning, I woke up early, got a short workout in, and met Ashley and Melissa at Saratoga Juice Bar. This adorable (and relatively new) spot features Saratoga’s only pressed juices, as well as a great smoothie menu. I was really impressed, not to mention charmed by the warm surroundings. I got a couple of pressed juices (two for me and other bridesmaids, one for Melissa–I thought she might enjoy an afternoon pick-me-up!) and a smoothie with banana, strawberries, blueberries, hemp seeds, kale, cocoa, cinnamon, and almond milk. It was great.

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Before too long, it was hair and makeup time. Melissa made the hours fly by with a killer playlist (featuring tons of Girl Talk, our mutual obsession) and other great tracks. She also stocked the room with Larabars, almond butter, fruit, and sandwiches. Here she is, only hours before the service was underway:

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Ashley and I decided to get matching updos–French braids with side buns.

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Intricate though they were, zillions of bobby pins helped keep the updos up through many hours of dancing. I wear my hair down or in a ponytail almost every day, so this was fun for me–like trying on a costume!

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We stepped outside for a few informal photos before the first look. We loved the ombre effect of our bouquets, and I loved my pink roses.

flowers dress After photos and a very beautiful church ceremony, we enjoyed a trolley ride to Saratoga’s lovely, cavernous Hall of Springs, where a long evening of food, drink, and dancing began. Everything was so thoughtful, from the pre-dinner taqueria bar (no joke — I walked away with a heaping plate of guacamole and proceeded to eat it by the spoonful) to the table settings to the fantastic entrees. I got a portobello mushroom stuffed with barley, corn, and lentils, served with tomato sauce and green beans. I felt so spoiled to have such a great vegan option on the menu, and I noticed that some other non-vegan guests chose it, too!

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The highlight of the wedding, though, was most definitely the dance party. Ashley and I had fun being goofy:

photo 3 copy And we also had a chance to make silly at the photo booth. (Anne, I was thinking of you.)

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On the way back home yesterday, I was thinking about how, at one point in my life, weddings (and other events like them) were a perfect storm for all of my control-related anxieties. Not being able to set my own schedule, not knowing exactly what food would be served, not knowing whom I’d meet–these were the sorts of situations that would make me retreat into fear. Even anticipating dancing, or having a sip of champagne, was hard. Clearly–as the big smiles in these photos suggest–I’ve come to relish opportunities to “order” and routine, and embrace spontaneous expressions of joy instead. It isn’t just about my eating disorder. Part of this shift is getting a little older, realizing how precious everything is, and wanting to savor new experiences as much as I can.

photo 4 (Thanks to Bo, Ashley’s husband, for humoring my two left feet on the dance floor).

As I may have mentioned in the past, I owe this blog to Melissa and her influence. I’d reached out to her after over a year of reading her blog, and we had a blogger/reader “blind date” in New York. When she heard me talk about raw foods, she urged me to channel all of my enthusiasm and passion into a blog of my own. At first, nervous about my writing, I resisted, but of course she was right to encourage me. This is only one of the ways in which Melissa has given me the courage to express my passions. When I decided to get my post-bacc, she was behind me all the way, and she’s cheered me on through nearly three years of academic meltdowns, breakup woes, and frequent insecurity. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive friend, and it was delightful to celebrate her partnership with Frank, who has become a beloved friend as well. Their generosity of spirit animated the whole wedding, and I’m sure all of the guests were as grateful as I was to experience it.

Tomorrow, a new favorite nut milk/superfood recipe. Night!

xo

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

janet @ the taste space October 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Gena, these are too cute.. and you are too cute. I wish weddings were always this much fun!! :)

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Gena October 21, 2013 at 8:59 pm

They certainly aren’t always, but I wish they were, too!

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Heather @TheSoulfulSpoon October 21, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I love the recipe, but what I love MORE is to see how happy you are and embracing life. I know better than anyone what it is like to avoid certain situations because of the unexpectedness of it all. I have often turned down trips in my past to do the same thing in regards to anxieties around schedules and food. I’ve learned over time, that I’m so much happier when I just go and make the best of things. Usually, there is always something I can eat, or something new that’s even better than what I would have picked, and still good for me too. I love how blogging introduced you to such a good friend. I’ve met so many already too, and wouldn’t have found CR without it!:) GREAT POST!:)

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 6:24 am

Thanks Heather!!! I’m happy you could relate to the joy here.

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Jacquie October 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

As always, this was such a heartfelt post. Great friends truly make life worth going after, finding your place and having fun! I too have been in an upheaval for a few months and those moments you can let loose are special! xo

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Jenni October 21, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I don’t think chocolate and sweet potatoes sounds weird at all! There are plenty of pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, so why would this be any different? Those look delicious!

I loved reading the end of this post. The part about how weddings and other social events used to be perfect storms for your anxieties–that really resonates with me. I hate saying that I once had an eating disorder, because my experience was not nearly as bad as some of the stories I’ve heard. What I went through doesn’t even compare to how bad it can get, and I almost feel like I don’t deserve (for lack of a better word) to use the title, but anyway…I struggled. And when I was struggling, social events were not even an option for me. If there was something I absolutely had to go to, it was no doubt endlessly stressed over until it was over (or until I somehow got out of the obligation). I know this sounds extremely corny, but it always warms my heart when I hear or see someone having fun in a situation that, in the past, would have been unbearable. I hope someone having a hard time will see this post and realize that recovery is possible. You’re proof!

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 6:40 am

Jenni,

I think the hesitation you’re describing to discuss your ED because it didn’t reach a certain level of severity is one that we’ve touched on here a few times. My personal feeling is that, if your anxiety or rigidity around food was enough to impact your social life, then you were definitely in the grips of something serious. I’m not a fan of reserving the words “eating disorder” only for something that was clinically diagnosed or acknowledged as urgent by treatment providers.

Now, of course, I do recognize that EDs are so severe in nature that they engender grave physical consequences, and I think it’s important to acknowledge the urgency of these cases. It’s been my observation that they demand a particularly hands on level of treatment. A reader of mine, some time ago, also noted that the physical ramifications she experienced in her struggle with anorexia–namely, severely low body weight–impacted her psychology and cognitive function in ways that only served to reinforce the disorder, which I understand.

But on the whole, I think we need to look at EDs and disordered eating more broadly than BMI or the current clinical criteria would have us do. Many women and men struggle tremendously, but because they don’t reach a certain BMI, their cases aren’t given the attention they deserve. And your feeling of hesitation to talk about your struggles is one I hear a lot. It concerns me that many people are frightened to work through their disorders because they don’t feel that they “deserve” discussion. In my experience, if a person is choosing to reach out to others to talk about food struggles, there’s always a very good, very important reason.

G

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Kait October 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm

What a perfect post to read right before bed. Thanks for giving me the warm fuzzies with your insightful words + lots of smiles with photos that capture nothing sort of joy, contentment, and livin in the moment.

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 6:40 am

Oh, warm fuzzies. Always happy to deliver them.

Living in the moment may never be my specialty, but I’m getting better at it, that’s for sure :-)

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Kait October 22, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Progress not perfection, right. ;)

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Emma (This Kind Choice) October 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm

I could totally see sweet potato and chocolate working, sounds goooood :)
I really like the photos of you dancing, looks like you’re having lots of fun. I always find it really amazing when I’m in a situation that I would have found absolutely terrifying at a time when I was struggling a lot with food, and now I’m loving it! I think it’s important to recognize those moments and how far you’ve come.

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Sarah October 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm

So, this doubtless is a really silly question, but are the sweet potatoes raw? Or dehydrated or cooked, they look great and I love chocomole, but I’ve never had raw sweet potato and you’ve got me intrigued.

Thanks for sharing.

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 6:21 am

Not at all silly! Ashley just asked too, because I’d only specified as an aside. My response: these are cooked. I almost always eat potato cooked (raw potato doesn’t always agree with me), and if I do eat it raw, it’s very thinly sliced, either into “rice,” noodles, or chips. So when it’s pictured on my blog as a thick round, like this, or cut into chunks, it’s cooked. Good question.

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Ash Bear October 22, 2013 at 3:02 am

1) Did you serve these warm or cold? Are the potatoes raw or cooked – maybe I missed it in the above. They are ADORABLE though!

2) Beau = Bo (Robert)

3) You don’t have 2 left feet

4) Thanks for a wonderful weekend!!

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 6:19 am

1) I said it in passing but didn’t emphasize it enough. These are cooked. I almost always eat potato cooked (raw potato doesn’t always agree with me), and if I do eat it raw, it’s very thinly sliced, either into “rice,” noodles, or chips. So when it’s pictured on my blog as a thick round, like this, or cut into chunks, it’s always cooked. Good question.

2) You know, I knew that from reading your blog, but my hands and brain weren’t communicating. Oy! Sorry. Just fixed it :-)

3) Debatable.

4) Likewise!

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Kari @ bite-sized thoughts October 22, 2013 at 3:36 am

I have no trouble believing sweet potato and chocolate are a beautiful match – I just can’t believe I’ve never tried it! Gorgeous idea :) And congratulations to your friend!

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Liz S. October 22, 2013 at 4:54 am

Cutest festive sweet potato rounds ever :D

Gena, you look positively stunning at the wedding. So happy for Melissa – congratulations to her on a beautiful ceremony!

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 6:16 am

Thanks Liz!!! I’ll pass those sentiments on to her, and she’ll be happy to hear them :-)

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janae @ bring joy October 22, 2013 at 5:53 am

Gena, I find it so hard to believe YOU were a chain smoker! (really??) It just seems so cont-rare to where you are now, but I guess that’s the beauty of change–we can all change!

I loved looking at all these pictures. Thanks for sharing. I’m so glad you started a blog. You know why I read every one of your posts? Because I don’t really care what you talk about or share (although I love all your simple & fresh recipes), I just enjoy reading your thoughts & getting your perspective. You just allow your radiant personality shine through–it’s real & I think we all gravitate to that authentic beauty.

Also, you’re gorgeous! I love your hair all pinned up. Isn’t it funny how a few years of life & hard knocks can help us to grow out of some of our adolescent insecurities? I’m glad I’m no longer in my twenties if nothing more than to have a greater footing & confidence in who I am & what I stand for.

Anyway, thanks for sharing. You’re so lovely.

ox

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 7:26 am

Your comment is funny, Janae!

I think if we spent more IRL time together, you’d see how and why smoking fits into the Gena that you know. I’ve always kind of vacillated between a strong tendency to seek out order and sense, and to some extent my enthusiasm for health and healthy living emerges from that. There’s also a very strong part of me that loves impulse, excess, rebellion, and even a touch of danger or self destruction. I used to conceive of my ED as an attempt to disavow this part of me, a fear of excess and appetite. But of course, my ED was the most self destructive tendency of all.

Early when I started this blog, I think I’d embraced health to the exclusion of any kind of “messy,” unhealthy behavior. It was an important step for me, because I was coming from many years of ignoring my health altogether. But as the years go by, I realize that it’s no good to smother the part of myself that embraces impulse or excess, either. The key is to find a place of moderation, and of course to channel my impulse or excess into things like eating a lot of really tasty chocolate, rather than picking up a pack of smokes :-)

While I’d certainly never become a chain smoker again, or drink coffee by the gallon the way I used to, I’m also not as intent on making every single morsel of food that passes through my lips healthy, or only ever engaging in “healthy” behaviors. I’m incredibly passionate about a healthful lifestyle for the most part, but I also cringe at the extent to which I used to say “no” to things for the sake of maintaining a kind of purity. As a friend of mine, who shares some of these tensions and sentiments, once said to me, “at a certain point, I had to ask myself what I was really living for, if not to enjoy myself now and then.”

Anyway, sorry to deliver you a meditation on my psyche that you didn’t ask for. I realize that everyone struggles with the tug-of-war between order and chaos, and that it’s played out for many people in the realm of health. But your comment brought it up for me.

xoxo

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janae @ bring joy October 22, 2013 at 10:03 am

I think because I’ve always been a practicing Mormon, I’ve never smoke or drank (or even drank coffee!), but oh boy, if I wasn’t, I’m sure I would have been in the same boat as you! I’m a total excess kind of girl with LOTS of energy & I have to channel it somehow. I too, have learned through time & experience that I don’t have to only eat *pure* things–it’s been a road though! & I owe a lot of that, in all honesty to the love of an amazing husband how has acted as a yin to my yang.

Anyway, I think we have more in common than you think–I’ve always thought it’s a good thing I’ve never touched alcohol, because I know myself too well–I’d be one of those who’d be predisposed to overdrinking (just as I’m prone to overeating, undereating, blah, blah, blah).

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Oh, I think we have plenty in common! (And know so, from our wonderful lunch last year.) I can relate to just about everything in this comment.

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sarRAW October 22, 2013 at 8:36 am

Gena,

You look beautiful!! Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience, looks like a great time!!

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Ashley October 22, 2013 at 8:55 am

Such a sweet, reflective post. Loved every bit of it and you looked radiant!! Now, I believe it’s about time we meet. xoxo

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jodye @ whole pure recipes October 22, 2013 at 10:45 am

Fall foliage in upstate NY is one of my favorite things in the entire world. It is so beautiful! You’ve inspired me to make a trip up there in the next week or so, lest I miss the beauty! Also, sweet potato jack o lanterns just made it to the tip top of my list. With chocomole! Oh my, what a wonderful idea!

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lymieeatingcoconut October 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm

So cute! Well, you and the pumpkins. Looks like an amazing wedding.

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Karen October 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

You (and your ‘do) look just gorgeous, Gena!!

I’m relating to your dialogue and the various conversations re. eating recovery and social events – and so admiring/envying your obvious growth in this area. Like I’ve said before, I think your close connections are going to be your saving grace when it comes to maintaining long term recovery w/minimal setbacks.

So happy for your obvious joy!

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Gena October 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Thank you so much for this kind comment, Karen! The social event growth has progressed more slowly than other areas of my recovery, and it is very much a work in progress, with all of the bumps and ups and downs that we (this community) have discussed re: recovery in other posts. But it’s getting easier, and this weekend felt like a step.

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Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) October 23, 2013 at 3:08 am

I love the sweet potato jack o’ lanterns, such a cute idea. The wedding sounds like so much fun, looks like you had a blast.

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Johanna GGG October 23, 2013 at 4:59 am

I love your sweet potato jack o lanterns – partly because I am so terrible at piping and it is good to see others who also find it a challenge – but mostly because they are so cute and a lovely healthy version of a halloween snack

the wedding looks like fun too

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dixya| food, pleasure, and health October 23, 2013 at 8:48 am

im sooo happy that the weeding for your friend went well and you were able to enjoy it :) :)

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Sophie October 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I love this post Gena! I’ve been through similar stuggles to you, ed/self destruction and your blog always warms my heart, seeing how the future can be a bright and positive place!

You look,so gorgeous in those pictures!

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kimmythevegan October 27, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Those little guys are SO CUTE!!!! Adorable =) You are super creative Gena!
The wedding looks beautiful and it looks like you had a much deserved fun time!

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