Being a member of a CSA is a FANTASTIC way to support local agriculture, receive a weekly share of freshly picked produce, and to understand and appreciate farming in your region. It also demands a tremendous amount of creativity to eat an immense amount of leafy greens between June and November. Luckily, this simple preparation for greens never gets old…Read More
Happy first day of summer and NATIONAL SMOOTHIE DAY (yep, that’s a thing)!
Yes, it's a silly day, but in my book, nothing beats a smoothie after a hot summery run, but I have a few caveats:
1. Skip the protein powder. It's tough to come up short on protein in a healthful diet, so it's not necessary--my protein needs are easily met otherwise! Not to mention, after a tough workout, my body is looking for carbohydrates to replenish lost stores in any case, and the amount of protein in most powders is overkill.
2. I only put in my blender or bowl the amount of fruit I would actually eat whole--here I've used frozen banana and wild blueberries. It's easy to overdo it, adding five or more servings to fill the blender, resulting in an over-filled bowl with hundred and hundreds of calories of fruit. Yes, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.
3. It's ALL about the toppings! I love a good dollop of nut butter--cashew butter in this case--or whole nuts & seeds, and something crunchy--a quarter cup of nutty whole grain Michele's Granola in this bowl. It's also easy to keep piling on the goods, but unless I'm re-fueling after hours of running, this bowl will easily meet my post-workout hunger.
Here’s to meaningful food holidays!
While I love the flavor and creamy texture of starchy winter squash (not to mention the nutrition punch in the form of fiber and vitamin A), it feels like such a chore to hack at that tough outer skin to get to the good stuff.
Until I discovered Delicata squash, the squash that requires NO PEELING! The skin is super thin and very edible.
You'll recognize it as the oblong light yellow squash with green or dark yellow stripes running longways. Wash it well, then cut it in half, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp. Slice it into half-inch thick rings, and it's ready to bake.
Set the rings on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and season with a sprinkle of sea salt, and take things up a notch with one or more seasonings, like cinnamon, garlic powder or onion powder. You can add a small swizzle of olive oil if you like to help the seasoning stick, but by putting the rings on parchment they won't stick, and by giving plenty of space on the pan, they'll brown nicely. Pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes and then flip them. If you’re feeling super fancy, swizzle a scant teaspoon of pure maple syrup at the halfway point, but again, that's optional. Roast for another 15 or so minutes (depending on their thickness).
For a quick and balanced weeknight meal, serve them as the starchy component of your meal: They're great over wilted kale or collards, or with roasted green beans or Brussels sprouts. Add your protein, or some rinsed and drained canned beans and a handful of raw pumpkin seeds, and you're set. Leftover squash rings (if you have any!) make tomorrow's lunch salad really special, too, or enjoy them with yogurt for breakfast or a snack.
I do not have enough fingers and toes on which to count the number of times the term "Pumpkin Spice" has come up in conversation with clients this fall. Lattes, cookies, cake and fudge spiked with artificial pumpkin spice flavoring, cheap soybean oil and loads of sugar are ridiculously tempting this time of year, but they're cinnamon-y landmines if you're trying to eat more healthfully. For example, the ubiquitous Grande (16 oz) Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, even with non-fat milk and no whip, contains a whopping 49 grams of sugar—that’s 98% of your daily allotment of added sugar in a 2,000 calorie diet (based on a the American Heart Association recommendation of max of 10% of calories from added sugar).
Is it possible to enjoy the autumn joy that is pumpkin spice without consuming a day's worth of sugar? And could you even--dare I say it--find a way to make pumpkin spice a healthy choice? I say YES! and the proof is below...
Pumpkin Spice Dip
Makes 1 serving but is easily multiplied
- Make the Pumpkin Spice by shaking up these spices in a small jar (you could also use a commercial mix, but why would you?!):
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch of cloves
- Pinch of allspice
- Make the yogurt dip by blending these ingredients with a whisk or spoon:
- 2 Tablespoons of unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (I used Anita’s Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative, or you could use Kite Hill Plain Unsweetened Almond Yogurt Alternative) OR an excellent quality Greek or Icelandic plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin (make sure it's plain pureed pumpkin, not canned pumpkin pie filling)
- Prepared pumpkin pie spice to your liking: Start with about a teaspoon and add more to your taste
- Add a topping if you choose:
- Drizzle a teaspoon of natural peanut or almond butter
- Sprinkle a Tablespoon or two of muesli (I used Michele’s Toasted Muesli--made locally in Baltimore!)
- Add a Tablespoon of raw seeds or nuts
- Slice up some apples or pears and enjoy as a tasty dip, or eat it with a spoon for breakfast or a snack.
I've been making the rounds to running groups and talking to runners about eating well to fuel their workouts. One of my favorite topics is what to eat before and after a workout. I'm always surprised at just how few people make a consistent habit of eating after their tough workouts and long runs.
Eating a nutritious snack after workouts an hour or longer helps you gain strength and recover more quickly. Skipping that snack could lead to poor recovery and an out-of-control appetite. Following a workout with greasy or sugar-loaded foods doesn’t help you recover, either. A broadly accepted ratio for a perfect long run snack is about 3 or 4 to 1, carbohydrate to protein. That means a nice chunk of carbs and some protein, and the next meal should be rich in quality protein to speed recovery.
I often suggest a home-blended smoothie with frozen fruit and nuts; or whole wheat toast with banana and natural peanut or almond butter; or a loaded sweet potato with yogurt and almond butter. Even with these great suggestions, I often get the follow-up question, "But what do YOU eat after YOUR workouts?," as if I'm hiding a big secret, like I've got some supplements, or commercial shake powder (sorry, Shakeology--I ain't buying your crap), or I'm hitting up a smoothie shop and getting kooky, expensive boosters.
I'm revealing all today and sharing one of my favorite homemade post-workout treats: The Hot Pink Smoothie Bowl! It's got plenty of carbs from bananas, berries and dragonfruit (sounds exotic but easy to find), and who needs protein powder when I've got the real deal from seeds and nut butter! And with the bright colors in the fruit, I know I'm also getting plenty of antioxidants to aid in recovery. Here's my formula...
- 1 giant handful of frozen banana chunks, maybe a couple bananas worth (check my freezer any day of the week, and I've always got a container of frozen bananas)
- 1 packet of unsweetened, frozen dragon fruit (I like Pitaya Plus, available at Wegmans or MOMs)
- A splash of unsweetened almond milk
- A tablespoon of chia seeds
- A heaping tablespoon of chunky almond or peanut butter
- A handful of fresh fruit
Blend the bananas and dragon fruit with just enough liquid to make the blender work, using a tamp down thingy to keep, well, tamping it down so the blade can do its work. When it's blended, pour it into a bowl and add the toppings. Enjoy!
Have I mentioned in the last 10 minutes that I love summer? Because I do--for far too many reasons than I have time to list here. One of the best parts of summer is the amazing variety of produce that grows locally in and around my fine home state of Maryland. Last week, we got about a zillion cucumbers in our CSA share from One Straw Farm, providing the perfect opportunity to whip up my favorite, super-fast summer side. It's less a recipe than a concoction; somewhere between a light pickle and a salad, you can enjoy this as a condiment on a sandwich or salad, or as a side dish at your next barbecue:
Refreshing Cucumber Salad
- Cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds or half moons
- Sweet onion, thinly sliced into half moons
- Fresh dill, roughly chopped
- Rice vinegar (plain, not "seasoned," which contains added sugar)
- Coarse salt + pepper to taste
Combine the ingredients except for the salt + pepper in a flat-bottomed dish so everything can marinate well. Allow to sit at least 4 hours or overnight. Add salt + pepper to taste Make as much or as little as you like, adding more or less of any ingredient to your preference. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more delicious this gets!
Need support in shopping and eating seasonally? Please get in touch!
I hear from clients and would-be clients, "I don't have time to plan or prep meals." I counter that with this simple, flavorful salad that uses simple pantry ingredients, is loaded with flavor AND nutrition, lasts for days in the fridge, and actually becomes more delicious as flavors meld:
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Whisk together the dressing in a small bowl (or shake them together in a jar), then pour over the rest of the ingredients in a serving bowl. Refrigerate a couple hours or longer.
- 1 x 14-oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 2-3 stalks of celery, washed and cut into about a half-inch dice
- 1 bell pepper of any color, cut into about a half-inch dice
- 1 bunch of scallions, green and white parts chopped
- About a couple Tablespoons of rice vinegar (not seasoned)
- About a Tablespoon of dijon mustard
- A teaspoon of honey for palates that love sweet
- A teaspoon of organic olive oil for oomph
- Salt + pepper to taste
Makes about 4 servings.
Holiday picnics and potlucks are landmines for those of us trying to eat healthfully. One of my best strategies is to bring a healthful dish, but I don't want to be that guest; you know, the one who brings a sad, soggy casserole full of weird ingredients that sits untouched. I'm going to share one of my favorite picnic dishes, and despite being loaded with healthful ingredients, it always gets raves. Plus it's super easy to put together--it's less a recipe and more of a put-some-stuff-in-a-dish-and-let-the-ingredients-do-the-work.
Whole Grain Taboule
- 1/2 cup of your favorite whole grain, dry (great options include bulghur wheat, quinoa, or a whole grain blends like those from truRoots)
- A pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
- 1 big bunch of scallions, washed and chopped, both green and white parts
- A big bunch of parsley, leaves washed and chopped (avoid woody stems, but thinner stems are fine)
- Juice of one big lemon (or a couple smaller)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- OPTIONAL: A handful of fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces
- OPTIONAL for serving:
- Chickpeas (canned are fine, just drain & rinse)
- Fresh lettuces or other leafy greens
- Lemon wedges
Cook whole grains according to the package using water or stock. BONUS: For really delicious grains, before you cook them, toast them in a dry pan. Just add grains to a pan with no oil or liquid over medium heat, and toss them them till they are lightly brown and emit a nice, toasty smell. Toasted grains have a nutty flavor that really adds to any dish.
Combine the cooked grains with all ingredients (excluding the optional ingredients for serving) in large bowl, adding plenty of ground pepper and some coarse salt.
Let this sit several hours overnight so the flavors really develop. Serve as is, or with the optional serving options. Makes 4 entree-sized servings, or 6-8 (or more) side dish servings.
I want to eat healthy, but I am busy and don't want to spend my life in the kitchen, so preparing one dish and getting several meals out of it is a huge win. Enter big beautiful whole grain salads, loaded with fresh herbs for big flavor, lots of vegetables and tasty vegetarian protein so they can last for a few days in the fridge!
The recipe I'm about to share is a big hit among many of my clients (although a caveat: If you dislike dill, don't make this!). It comes together quickly, and is a delicious, complete meal on it's own, or bolstered by additional sources of protein or vegetables. Let me know if you give this one a try...
Quinoa & Edamame Salad
Serves 4 as a main course or more as a side
- 1 cup dried quinoa or other whole grain (I used 1/2 cup of truRoots Ancient Grain Medley which is a very voluminous mix of quinoa, millet and buckwheat)
- 12-16 oz package of frozen edamame WITHOUT shells, thawed (either by microwaving or by sitting on the counter for an hour or longer)
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
- A handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn
- A big handful of fresh dill, chopped
- 1 bunch of scallions, greens and whites, chopped
- 1 large lemon or 2 small, juiced
- Salt & pepper to taste
Cook the grain according to the package in water or stock, or for SUPER FLAVORFUL GRAINS, toast the grains: Simply add the grains to a dry pan over med high heat, and gently shake the pan to keep the grains from burning. Keep shaking the pan for 2-3 minutes, and the grains will emit a toasty warm smell when they’re done. The color may be a shade or two darker, but not browned. Then cook the grains according to package.
Toss all ingredients together with cooked grains and let sit minimum 4 hours in the fridge. This salad will become more flavorful as it sits. I'm not sure where I found the original recipe that I adapted into this version, but please pipe in if you recognize it!
Need support in coming up with easy + delicious recipes to support your health and fitness goals? Get in touch!
I can't even begin tell you how many clients come to me swearing up and down they just don't have time to eat a nutritious breakfast. They skip it, or they just opt for coffee. Some eat something very small, like a banana, while others chow down in the car on grab-and-go, nutritionally devoid packaged breakfast foods--I'm lookin' at you, Nutrigrain Bars, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars and Belvita Breakfast Cookies (more on my beef with Belvita HERE).
If the rest of these clients' diets were solid, with plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruit, I'd look the other way on the paltry breakfast; but that's rarely the case. A poor (or skipped) breakfast sets the tone for the day, leading to serious mid-morning hunger and lousy food choices, and those choices frequently continue through the day right through to late night junk food snacking.
Enter my most effective, most loved breakfast hack: Overnight Oats. I wish I could say I invented this trend. I did not. But I have a simple formula that is easily adapted based on unique likes and dislikes, and it can be adjusted to reflect the flavors of the seasons, too:
Makes 1 serving (easily multiplied)
- About 1/3 – 1/2 cup of rolled oats, uncooked (the old school brand in the cylinder is perfect. Steel cut oats will not soften much, and quick-cook oats will disintegrate.)
- A big pinch of salt
- 1 tsp (or more!) ground cinnamon
- 2-4 tablespoons of raw seeds and nuts (pumpkin, sunflower, almonds, walnuts, unsweetened coconut, etc)
- About 1 cup of your favorite unsweetened non-dairy or regular milk
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit of your choice
- 1-2 tablespoons chia seeds for a more pudding-like texture and added nutrition (protein, fiber, calcium and more)
- Add in another 1/4 cup of liquid for each tablespoon of chia seeds
Mix the oats, salt, seeds & nuts (including chia seeds if using), and cinnamon well. Then stir in about half the milk, getting the cinnamon well distributed. Then add the rest of the milk to cover the oats and seeds entirely--it should be a bit soupy, but the oats will soak up some of the liquid (and if you’re using chia seeds, they’ll soak up significantly more). Once everything is combined, add the frozen fruit and sweetener. If you're using fresh fruit, you can add it now, or wait and add it in the morning. Let it sit overnight (or up to two nights) and enjoy it cold in the morning. You can additional milk for serving if you prefer the texture. If the mixture is too liquid, you can strain some of the milk off or add yogurt to thicken.
Once you find a combination you love, combine the dry ingredients in plastic containers at the beginning of the week, then add your milk one or two nights before you plan to eat them. You can also play with the add-ins (using canned pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves for pumpkin pie oats; grated apple, walnuts and cinnamon for apple pie oats; unsweetened coconut, mango and pineapple for tropical oats; etc.).
Need more support in finding quick and easy make-ahead meals and snacks that support your health and fitness goals? Let's talk!
What a year 2016 was.
In my most-read post of 2016, I talked a whole lot of shit about Shakeology.
Later, I expressed my irritation at the difficulty of buying a decent jar of marinara sauce (and finally picked a winner with moderate enthusiasm).
I shared some of my favorite recipes, including a summer corn salad, Baked Carrot Cake, lentil coconut stew, simple breakfast squash, quick pizza at home, a simple peanut sauce, and I chided you not to eat breakfast like an 7-year old child (unless you are one).
I discovered the secrets to not getting fat on vacation.
And I finally, once and for all, answered the question: What’s the best adult beverage to drink without blowing my health and fitness goals?
On the personal front, I got to cheer on my husband John at the Boston Marathon, I ran a great marathon in the fall, and I generally celebrated the year of the Nasty Woman. And of course, I had the pleasure of supporting dozens of clients one-on-one in articulating and making progress toward their health and fitness goals, plus I spoke to many more of you in group settings.
Despite our scary political climate, I’m guardedly optimistic about 2017. No, really! I will be buckling down and focusing on what I can do to make the world a better place for my family and friends, and for my clients, and I invite you to join me!
If I can be of support to you this year, please get in touch, and let’s work together to make this your healthiest year yet.
The word "BRUNCH" has come up with clients quite a few times in the last few weeks. For example:
"I think I ate five pounds of bacon, French toast and syrup at brunch on Thanksgiving weekend,"
"Christmas Day brunch probably set me back a few weeks' of progress toward my weight loss goals and slowed my 5K time by about a minute per mile."
These may be slight exaggerations, but brunch is synonymous with overdoing it. Who doesn't love a special sweet and starchy something on the holiday brunch buffet? That said, your New Year's Day brunch need not completely derail your health and fitness goals.
This Baked Carrot Cake Oatmeal--adapted from a recipe by the fabulous Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows--is hearty and tasty, all while providing plenty of whole grains, nutritious nuts and even a vegetable in the form of real carrots! Add it to your buffet to crowd out some of the starchier, bacon-y-er options on your plate. Let me know if you give this one a try:
Baked Carrot Cake Oatmeal
- 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk, plus up to another 1/2 cup, divided
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- About 2 cups lightly packed grated carrots (3 large carrots)
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (you could use a teaspoon of ground, but it won't have the fresh, delicious ZING of the real deal)
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnut halves
- 2 Tablespoons of raw pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)
- 1/2 cup canned coconut milk (light or full fat)
In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt.
In a measuring cup, measure out 2 1/2 cups almond milk and maple, and add the vanilla. Whisk together well and pour it over the oats, stirring well till combined. Allow to soak at least a half hour, up to overnight.
When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a 9x9 casserole (or Pyrex dish or other dish about this size). I used coconut oil but you can use another light flavored oil.
Grate the ginger and carrots on a box grater or in a food processor, and then stir them into the oat and milk mixture with the walnuts and pumpkin seeds. If the mix is very dry from soaking, add a bit more milk to loosen the mixture, up to a half cup.
Pour the mixture into your dish and press it down gently. Pour the coconut milk over the top of the oats.
Bake uncovered for about 35 minutes, and allow to cool about 10 minutes (if you can wait!) before serving. Leftovers are delicious cold, room temp or heated with additional milk.
I realize that many people love autumn, but I loathe and detest fall, or as I like to call it, the sad and depressing transition to winter. I hate to see the warm sunny days of summer slip away, but there is one thing I LOVE about fall: The arrival of winter squash! Starchy and sweet, winter squash is also full of fiber, vitamin C and beta carotene that our bodies turns to vitamin A--so important for the immune system!
Winter squash make lovely side dish for dinner, or a creamy seasonal soup, but one of my favorite ways to enjoy squash is at breakfast! I hope you'll give this simple preparation a try, where warm and cool, soft and crunchy, and savory and lightly sweet come together in a nutritious start to the day.
Breakfast Squash Bowl
- 1 small acorn squash
- 1 x 6oz container of your favorite plain yogurt (dairy, non-dairy, Greek or regular without any added sugar or artificial sweetener)
- A sprinkle of ground cinnamon
- A drizzle of natural peanut or almond butter (ingredients should be the nuts and salt and nothing more)
- Toppings: Raw nuts or seeds, or a sprinkle of a good quality granola like Michele's Granola, baked with ingredients that are recognizable as food (no soy protein isolate, palm oil or hydrogenated anything) and with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
Cut the squash in half and use a spoon to remove and discard the seeds and pulp. Put the squash halves face down on a plate and microwave.* Microwave the squash for 5 minutes, turn the plate and microwave for another couple minutes, checking for done-ness by testing to see if a sharp knife will go through the peel with no resistance. Cook for additional time in increments of 1-2 minutes until the squash is done.
Fill your squash halves with the yogurt, and top with the cinnamon, nut butter and other toppings. Makes 1 serving, possibly two if you have a large squash.
* Don't love the microwave? Roast your squash the evening before on a cookie sheet!
I love shopping at summer farmers’ markets in Maryland, and judging by the crazy crowds at the market, I’m in good company. There’s one farmers’ market find in particular that my clients have questions about, and that’s corn.
There’s a misconception that corn is full of sugar and contains no nutritional benefit. Let’s dig into the truth about this whole grain (yes, like oats and wheat, corn is a whole grain, not a vegetable):
A large ear of sweet corn has less than a third of the sugar of a medium-sized apple. Fresh, local, organic corn on the cob actually offers plenty of B vitamins, like folate for hearth health, and fiber. And like other whole grains, corn has a decent source of protein, about 4-5 grams in a large ear.
Highly processed corn syrup or corn oil? Not so much.
So stick to whole corn, consider it as the whole grain on your plate, and enjoy it this summer!
Looking for a simple and delicious way to use corn with in-season summer vegetables? Give this a whirl:
Quick Corn Salad
4 medium or 3 large ears of corn, grilled, roasted or fresh; cut off the cob
A small bunch of scallions, washed well, white and green parts chopped
1-2 bell peppers of your choice, chopped into ¼ inch dice
2 big handfuls of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or cut into smaller pieces
1 – 14-oz can of beans of your choice, drained and rinsed
A couple big handfuls of shredded or finely chopped cabbage
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup plain rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Optional: 1 Tablespoon of honey
If using the honey, whisk it into the vinegar to combine well. Combine the corn and other vegetables, and poor the vinegar (or vinegar-honey mixture) over salad. Allow it to sit in the fridge at least a couple hours for the flavors to meld, then add salt and pepper to taste.
In Michael Pollan's excellent book Food Rules, rule #39 is "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself." I love this rule! I don't want to live in a world without pizza, but most delivery is an abomination of sugar, salt and grease. But there's good news...Read More
No matter what my clients' goals--weight loss, improved energy, working toward a personal best in a race, or generally improved health--nearly all of them need to add more vegetables to their diet. Some of us could eat raw and steamed vegetables every meal, but I understand that many find them boring.
For the latter group, I recommend using natural flavors to make steamed, roasted or grilled vegetables a bit more exciting, and this is one is a real favorite. It comes together with just six simple, flavorful ingredients, and it's truly delicious!
It's also excellent over whole grains and proteins--let me know if you give it a try:
Simple Peanut Sauce
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled
- 1 Tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
- 3 Tablespoons of natural almond or peanut butter (ingredients should be almonds or peanuts, and possibly salt--that's it.)
- 1 Tablespoon of minced or grated fresh ginger
- 2-3 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 3 Tablespoons of water
- OPTIONAL: 2 teaspoons of maple syrup
Whir everything up in a blender and use immediately or store in a jar in the fridge up to a couple weeks. Makes 4 servings.
Need support to eat more healthfully? Let's talk!
Why, a friend once asked me, would you go to a farmers' market and buy dirty, sandy produce when you can just buy it from the store? A fair question from someone who's never visited a farmers' market!Read More
Oatmeal with raisins & brown sugar and smoothies made of flavored yogurt & fruit sound like better choices than, say, a visit to the doughnut shop, but they're loaded with sugar, coming perilously close to maxing out the daily recommendations for added sugar. Have you tried a savory start to the day?Read More
You know that feeling. Just a little soreness in the back of the throat. Extremely tired. I've got something brewing, but before I start cramming down the over-the-counter cold and pain meds, I'm gonna come at this thing with a big bowl of soup! Specifically soup with loads of fresh garlic (with a strong cold-fighting reputation), ginger and turmeric (two more powerful allies in the fight).
This recipe is also full of leafy greens, protein & iron-filled lentils, and it's delicious! Let me know if you give it a try:
Lentil + Coconut Stew
Makes 6 servings. Adapted from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook by Robin Robertson
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, minced and allowed to sit for at least 10 minutes before cooking
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
Optional: ¼ tsp cayenne or ground chipotle chile
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon mustard seed OR prepared mustard
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 cups of water or vegetable stock
1.5 cups of brown or green lentils, rinsed
1 large yam, chopped roughly into half-inch chunks (I used a Japanese yam with a purple skin and white flesh)
A few big handfuls of baby spinach
1 cup (1/2 a can) coconut milk (this is the stuff in the can in the International aisle, not “Coconut Beverage” found in the refrigerated dairy section)
Ground black pepper to taste (important to help the turmeric do its job!)
Add a teaspoon or two of water to a large soup pot, add the onion, carrot, garlic and ginger, cover and cook for about 10 minutes till softened, stirring occasionally and adding another teaspoon or two of water if needed to prevent from sticking or burning.
Add the spices, stirring well for about one minute.
Add the stock, lentils and potato and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and spinach and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables and potatoes are very soft.
Season with black pepper and serve.