For the Hungry Yogi: Farro, Sweet Potato, and Pesto Salad

Farro, sweet potato, and pesto, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and sea salt.

When I have a busy yoga schedule it can be hard to figure out how to feed myself a satisfying meal without weighing myself down on the mat.

If I need energy for an intense session, and I feel that a piece of fruit just isn’t going to cut it, I chow down on cold farro and sweet potatoes with vegan pesto and sea salt an hour or two before I head into the studio.

I usually bake some sweet potatoes to store in the fridge and I boil farro to stash away as well. This way, if I’m in an “I need food now” state if mind either before or after practice, I can just pick up some fresh vegan pesto from the store and put the dish together in no time.

The farro: I can’t remember when I was introduced to this nutritious ancient grain, but since it’s been in my life, I’ve loved it more than any other grain. Its delicious, nutty flavor, lends itself well to both hot dishes and cold salads, and it’s similar to pasta or rice in how versatile it is; the flavor and texture of farro is distinct, yet it can easily act as a base for many dishes. All you need to do to prepare the farro is to boil it in water.

The sweet potatoes: These are easy to make. I just scrub each one well, puncture the skin with a fork, and place the potatoes in the oven on some foil. Set the oven at a high temperature. The sweets are done when you can easily puncture the potatoes with a knife; the sugars will start caramelize.

The pesto: If you have time to make everything on the spot, creating your own pesto is very easy. The base of a traditional pesto is fresh basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. All the ingredients are simply blended in a blender, a food processor, or with a mortar and pestle.

Today, I made my own pesto with a bit of kitchen improv, using some fresh spinach along with the small amount of basil I had in the fridge. It worked well. I used a blender to combine the following items:

  • Two garlic cloves
  • A good few pinches of sea salt
  • A few grinds of pepper
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • A few good glugs of olive oil
  • Lemon juice (about 3/4 of a lemon)
  • An absurd amount of greens (basil and spinach today). Because I love greens.
  • A good few sprinkles of nutritional yeast. WHAT IS NUTRITIONAL YEAST?! It’s not scary, I promise. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a great alternative to using parmesan, as it lends a similar flavor and it has no lactose. Those who are lactose intolerant know that parmesan is much lower in lactose than other cheeses, so if you can tolerate it, as many lactose intolerant people can, go for it! Add it right into the blender!

Pesto is one of those sauces that is easy to alter to suit your taste, just like dressing. If you like a bit more kick, use more garlic and lemon juice; season to your liking with salt and pepper; make the pesto thinner or thicker by adding more olive oil and/or greens.

If you are hitting your yoga mat in less than an hour, i’d suggest waiting to eat the meal until after. I’d snack on something light, like apples (or bananas) and peanut butter; dried fruit; some clean granola (and by that I mean not laden with sugars and fats) or even dark chocolate!

Happy cooking!






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