Eileen Z. Fuentes | Hurricane Sandy: Using Food to Warm Up From The Inside Out
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05 Nov Hurricane Sandy: Using Food to Warm Up From The Inside Out

Sweet potato squash wontons www.thespeach.comAs you know, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the Northeast and I wanted my kitchen to be fully stocked prior to the storm. As the clouds darkened, I hit the farm, farmer’s market, Asian supermarket and a bodega to ensure I had all the food necessary to cover us for at least week. In 2008, a nor’easter caused my family and I to be evacuated from our home for two years and I wasn’t taking any chances. The markets were completely packed with regular folks as well as some doom and gloomers who were preparing for the worse.

Although the storm seemed like it would never arrive, when it did it came with a fierce intensity. As I sat in my living room watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations in the Dominican Republic, the lights flickered and everything shut off in an instant… Bummer! It was really scary watching electrical transformers explode and light up the sky. Considering everything was completely dark, it had a bigger impact. The first night without power was fun as the batteries on our fully charged electronics were still in tact. We danced in the dark until we got tired, then went to sleep.

wonton ingredients www.thespeach.comThe next morning, it was freezing! I panicked thinking that I could not use the stove until a friend advised me that I could still get it on with matches (I totally should’ve known that, I know). Once that was clarified, there was no stopping me. I was prepared to cook foods that provided a heating effect from the inside out. Like many in the area, we spent the rest of the time indoors, without the distraction of television and computers, eating comfort foods… lots of it, probably too much.

The first was squash/sweet potato wontons loaded with healing herbs and spices. As an added bonus, my kids enjoyed helping to make them. Squash is great to incorporate this time of the year plus are they rich in carotenes and offer protection against cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes. Sweet potatoes offer many of the same qualities and help to boost antioxidants. And note that although they are a starchy food, they are still considered anti-diabetic. This is great if you are looking to curb sweet cravings. I made steamed and lightly fried versions and they were a huge hit.

wonton filling www.thespeach.comTo those who were displaced by the storm, I send you my love. Please know you are the source of inspiration for many. The outpouring of love and community is a much needed ingredient, as the nation stands divided by the upcoming elections.

Related Posts: “Keepin’ it Real” Recipes

Related Story: Why do people turn to food in bad weather? – Time Magazine

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Sandy-Inspired Sweet Potato/Squash Wontons
Serves: 30+ wontons
  • Filling
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes
  • 1 pound carnival squash, peeled and seeded, flesh cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • wonton wrappers, thawed if frozen
  • Dipping Sauce
  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium tamari
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 scallion (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  1. Filling
  2. - Heat oven to 375°F. Prick holes in sweet potatoes. Bake on a baking sheet until soft, turning once, about 1 hour.
  3. - Put squash and salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until very soft, about 15 minutes; drain.
  4. - Cool, then peel sweet potato. Then transfer to a medium bowl; combine with the squash and mash with a fork until smooth.
  5. - Heat coconut oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, ginger and shallot, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pepper flakes. Stir garlic mixture, salt and pepper into sweet potato/squash mixture
  6. - Place 1 tablespoon filling in the center of each wrapper; wet edges with water (you can do this with your finger like I did). Bring up corners to make a triangle; press with a fork to seal. Place on a baking sheet.
  7. - Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add 10 wontons, and cook, shaking pan frequently, until bottoms are golden brown. Turn pot stickers over and cook the other side. You can stop here or continue for to the next step for the steamed wontons.
  8. - For steamed wontons pour in ¼ cup water, and cover. Steam until most liquid is evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish. cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and pot stickers. Serve with dipping sauce.
  9. Dipping Sauce
  10. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stirring with a whisk to combine.

Eileen Z. Fuentes

After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008, Eileen became her own Self-Healthcare Activist. She is an Integrative Cancer Coach and works full-time helping patients do more than just survive at Columbia University’s Cancer Center in New York City.

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