Lentil-Vegetable Couscous Stew

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A steaming bowl of soup is my favorite meal in cold weather, but it doesn’t travel well. I was inspired to make this stew when I was making soup and thinking about how difficult it would be to bring to work for lunch. Adding some whole-wheat couscous took care of the liquid but preserved the flavor, and the dish turned out to be just as filling and warming as a soup.

This is a simple recipe that could be changed in so many ways. The ratio of broth, vegetables, and couscous is important so you end up with the right consistency of stew, but you can throw in any vegetables you have on hand. Different spice and herb combinations would work, too, but I recommend using the goat cheese every time to add a bit of creaminess.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 32 oz low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat couscous
  • 1 oz goat cheese
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • grated parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium in a large soup pot. Chop carrots, red pepper, and sweet potato (with skin on) and saute in olive oil for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the lentils, broth, bay leaf, onion powder, oregano, and thyme to the pot. Bring to a boil and then drop heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. 074
  3. Remove the bay leaf, and add the salt, couscous, and goat cheese. Stir, drop the heat to low, and cover the pot. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the liquid is all absorbed. Stir to incorporate the goat cheese. 076
  4. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach and vinegar until spinach wilts.
  5. Serve topped with parsley and parmesan cheese.

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Serves 4 to 6. Active time 20 minutes; total time 50 minutes.

Sweet Potato Oatmeal

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I was holding on to this recipe until I felt that true autumn feeling, and it finally happened today. As I drove around my new neighborhood and found a road that looked downright rural, leaves of many colors littered my windshield. It’s pumpkin spice season!

I often use sweet potato instead of pumpkin in baked goods because the potato leftovers are more versatile than the leftover canned pumpkin. Sweet potatoes take more time, though, since you need to microwave and peel them. The taste is similar, so use whichever item you prefer.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup oats, gluten-free if desired
  • 2/3 cup almond or soy milk
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • dash of vanilla
  • 1/4 cup mashed sweet potato (if you don’t have any on hand, follow these directions to cook a small potato)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • sliced almonds (optional)

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the oats, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the sweet potato and maple syrup and stir. Microwave for 2 more minutes, watching the bowl carefully for overflow. IMG_5598
  3. Stir and serve topped with sliced almonds, as well as more cinnamon and maple syrup to taste.

Serves 1. Active and total time 6 minutes. Adapted from http://www.theoatmealartist.com/maple-sweet-potato-oatmeal/

Sweet Potato-White Chocolate Cookies

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Who says nutmeg is a winter spice? These cookies have traditional fall flavors, but I’ve been eating them all summer. They’re so moist that each cookie feels like a piece of cake, and they always please a crowd.

This is a variation on pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips. I replaced the canned pumpkin with sweet potatoes because my farm share sends me piles of them; pumpkin would give you the same result, though.

I mixed in white chocolate and pecans to replace the chocolate chips so this recipe would be heartburn-approved. Both versions are delicious, but to be honest, I usually use semisweet chocolate when I make these for others! Total chocolate deprivation is not a sustainable lifestyle. These are some of the healthiest cookies around, so I don’t feel guilty about having a few bites of chocolate once in a while.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat white flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato (from 2 medium potatoes; directions below)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash the sweet potatoes and prick them each several times with a fork. Put them on a plate and microwave for 7 minutes. Flip each potato and microwave for 6 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Use a dull knife to peel each potato (as shown here). Discard the skins, mash the flesh, and measure out 1 cup, setting aside any extra for another use.
  5. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and brown sugar until smooth and light in color, about 1 minute. Mix in the applesauce, oil, sweet potato, and vanilla until blended.
  6. On low speed, mix in half of the flour and then the other half after a few seconds. Work quickly, as the dough will form a sticky ball around the beaters. Finish mixing by hand if necessary.
  7. Mix in the white chocolate chips and pecans (if using) by hand. IMG_5905
  8. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the dough onto the cookie sheets. You should have 14 to 16 cookies.
  9. Bake the cookies until the tops feel firm and a toothpick comes out clean, 15 to 16 minutes. Let the cookies rest for 5 minutes on the sheets; then move them to cooling racks to cool completely.
  10. To store, leave the cookies uncovered and unrefrigerated overnight. (Otherwise they will get soggy.) Move to an airtight container the next morning, and refrigerate if you haven’t devoured them all.

Makes 14 to 16 cookies. Adapted from http://baker-bookworm.blogspot.com/2010/11/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

Sweet Potato & Banana Muffins with Pecans

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These muffins are the healthy version of funfetti. The inside is studded with bits of sweet potato, banana, and pecan. In addition, these are low in fat and made partially with whole-wheat flour. They’re not too sugary, but the natural flavors of the ingredients make them sweet enough for dessert. The pecan-brown sugar topping helps with that, too.

I tend to make heavier, filling baked goods that I can eat for breakfast or as a energy boost before a bike ride. These muffins are dense, but they also rise high during baking. They’re moist, but not mushy like some produce-filled cakes can be. I’m really happy with the texture and was pleased to bring these to a family Easter celebration as a healthy dessert.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat white flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp chopped pecans
FOR THE TOPPING:
  • 3 tbsp pecans
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes. Place them on a plate lined with paper towel and poke holes in them with a fork. Microwave on high for 6 minutes; then flip and microwave for another 7 minutes. Let the potatoes cool for 3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the bananas, brown sugar, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, and cinnamon.
  4. Peel the potatoes and discard the skins (as shown here). Mash the flesh and add it (about 3/4 cup of mashed potato) to the wet ingredients. Use a fork to break up the potatoes and bananas as well as possible.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in the pecans.
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  7. In a mini chop, pulse the pecans and brown sugar about 10 times, until the mixture is uniform.
  8. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into 12 paper-lined muffin tins. Sprinkle each cup with the pecan-sugar topping.
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  10. Bake the muffins for 18 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out nearly clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before eating.

Makes 12. Active time 30 minutes; total time 50 minutes. Adapted from http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/side/potatoes/sweet-potato-banana-bread.html

Green Soup with Goat Cheese

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Looking for health food to counteract holiday overindulgence? For me, dinner salads and smoothies aren’t appealing in the colder months. Instead, this green soup fills me with vegetables while warming my belly.

As I enter my annual meat-free January, this soup will be my comfort food. (Who needs chicken noodle?) I pair it with whole-wheat crackers, a toasted slice of fresh bread, or homemade croutons.

When I heard “green soup,” I was picturing it to be the color of a Crayola crayon. Instead, it’s a forest green because cooked kale doesn’t maintain its bright color. With a swirl of goat cheese, it looks pretty enough in the bowl. Be forewarned, though, that the leftovers will brown in the refrigerator. They look more like black bean soup, but they still taste great.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 Braeburn or Gala apple
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 8 oz kale, thick stems removed
  • 8 oz chard, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, tough stems removed
  • 1 heaping tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • sea salt
  • 2 oz goat cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Peel and dice the sweet potato and apple, and put them in a large soup pot with the water and broth. Thoroughly wash the kale, chard, and cilantro, and add them to the pot, along with the ginger and bay leaf. IMG_4965
  2. Bring the liquid to a boil then lower the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 25 minutes. Add the onion powder, oregano, and cumin, and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  3. Discard the bay leaf. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until very smooth. Stir in oil and vinegar, and add salt to taste. IMG_4966
  4. Stir a half-ounce of goat cheese into each portion and serve.
Serves 4. Active time 20 minutes; total time 50 minutes. Adapted from http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/10/green-soup-recipe.html