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On Fridays, my husband can come home for lunch (he works 15 minutes away), so I like to make a hot meal to give him some variety from his regular cold sandwiches. He never knows what he’ll come home to – sometimes it’s a tuna melt, sometimes it’s a stew, sometimes it’s soup. Today, it was curried lentils in tomato sauce over brown rice.

I’m on a avoid-sugar-and-white-flour kick right now, and I’m trying to stay away from bread altogether.  I’ve found that cutting bread from my diet makes lunchtime tricky, so I’ve been sifting through the healthy vegetarian recipes on MarthaStewart.com searching for easy, interesting dishes that would work well for lunch – and that’s where I found this.

Granted, eating a super healthy lunch may take a bit more planning than slapping together my beloved peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it is rewarding. Tucking into this bowl of hearty, flavorful and nutritious lentils was pretty great. It’s spicy and delicious, with just the right amount of kick. It’s very filling, and it’s loaded with good-for-you nutrients like folate, potassium and iron. Lentils are also a good source of fiber and protein. A meal that’s both incredibly healthy and incredibly delicious?  I don’t want to brag, but there were some high fives after lunch.

Curried Lentils in Tomato Sauce

Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, March 2007

  • 2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and picked over*
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (2 inches long), peeled and finely grated (my piece was big and fat so there was a lot of ginger)
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (optional – I used it)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 jar (26 ounces) best-quality store-bought tomato sauce (I used Prego Chunky Garden Combo)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • Cooked brown rice, for serving
  1. In a medium pot, combine lentils with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes, topping off water as needed. Lentils are done when easily mashed with a fork.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and ginger; season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Add tomato sauce, lentils, and 1 cup water. Simmer until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Test lentils – if they are still a bit gritty as mine were, add another half cup of water and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. When the lentils are ready, stir in lime juice and cilantro; season with salt.

*The original recipe called for 2 cans of lentils, rinsed and drained.

I made these tasty morsels for a friend who’s in the hospital. Hospital food is just dreadful and it’s unfortunate that hospitals don’t seem to make the connection between nutritious food and healing. This guy is recovering from a major illness and they’re serving him super-processed, unappetizing, vegetables from a can, white rice, corn syrup-laced food that he can barely choke down. Isn’t that horrible? So he made a request for visitors to bring him healthy dinners. When I first visited (with a serving of autumn harvest chili in tow), one thing that stood out in my conversation with him was that breakfasts at the hospital are terrible, too. You’d think breakfast would be relatively easy to do well, but they’re not – horrible pancakes with disgusting maple-flavored corn syrup, cold cereals with minimal whole grain but plenty of sugar, that sort of thing. And one can only take so many days of oatmeal.

So I looked in my Power Foods cookbook for something nutritious and wholesome that would work for breakfast and that would keep well at room temperature for a few days. These fit the bill perfectly – they’re full of whole grains in the form of oats and quinoa, plus nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, and lightly sweetened with honey.

They’re tasty, chewy, nutty (the quinoa, oats and sunflower seeds are all toasted in the oven to give them all a nice nutty flavor), and above all nutritious. I hope my friend enjoyed these, I’ve been loving the leftovers! These make a great snack, too, and would be a perfect addition to a lunch box. I’ve been enjoying them crumbled over plain nonfat Greek yogurt for lunch.

Quinoa Granola Clusters

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Power Foods

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cups white quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cups raw cashews (or other nut), coarsely chopped

1 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped (I used dried apricot, mango, and cranberries)

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/4 cup flax seeds (I used Trader Joe’s Golden Roasted Flax Seeds)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil, such as canola

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Vegetable oil cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa; return to a boil. Stir once; cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until quinoa is slightly underdone (it will finish cooking in the oven) and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer quinoa to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, fluffing with a for occasionally, until pale golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
  2. Spread oats evenly on the baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add oats to bowl with quinoa. Spread sunflower seeds on baking sheet;  bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 7 minutes. Add to quinoa mixture; let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
  3. Toss nuts, fruit, sugar and salt in with quinoa mixture. Mix honey, oil, vanilla and eggs together; stir into quinoa mixture.
  4. Line an unrimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; lightly coat with cooking spray. Place 1/4 cup mixture onto sheet for each cluster, spacing them 3 inches apart. Flatten to 1/4-inch thick. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until crisp, about 25 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

 

There is something so charmingly retro about this recipe, which is what drew me to it in the first place. Pressing cooked quinoa into a pie plate and then unmolding it onto a platter so the neat circles of butternut squash are attractively displayed on top seems like such a weird thing to do to quinoa. It’s something that they would’ve done in the 1960’s when American cuisine was all about Spam and pineapple upside down cakes. If my husband had been around when I stumbled across this recipe, he probably would’ve been hesitant to try it when my first reaction was “This looks so weird – I have to make it!”

But I’m not one to let a quirky 1960’s vibe dissuade me from trying out a recipe. So I made it as a side dish for dinner one night, and after we both marveled at this odd way of serving quinoa, we tried it. Holy cow, it’s good! It’s actually really tasty! I know the pie shape has nothing to do with the flavor, but it did cause some doubt. Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to worry, I’ve tested it out, and this is a really yummy dish. It’s great as a side dish, but it would also work really well as a light lunch with a little side salad. It’s so healthy, all whole grains and veggies, it’s an easy way to slip some wholesome goodness into your meal.

Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash

From Martha Stewart Living, November 2006

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, havled crosswise, and seeded

18 fresh sage leaves, plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage

1/2 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup quinoa

2 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought vegetable stock

1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Vegetable oil, cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 rimmed baking sheets with 1 teaspoon oil. Cut five 1/4-inch-thick rings of squash; cut remainder into 1/4-inch dice. Place squash on sheets. Toss with 1 teaspoon oil; sprinkle with 12 sage leaves. Bake until tender and just golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely. Keep oven on.
  2. Heat remaining teaspoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. quinoa and stock; bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat. Simmer until liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 2 minutes.
  3. Stir together quinoa, diced squash, chopped sage, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
  4. Coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Arrange 6 sage leaves face down in plate; top with squash rings. Press quinoa mixture on top.
  5. Bake 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. Serve wedges warm or at room temperature.


 

We’re still trying to eat healthy around here, and have been pretty successful. I’ve been finding some awesome recipes that may be full of good veggies and low on calories, but definitely don’t skimp on flavor. These tostadas are the perfect example.

Okay, I’ll admit: I was a bit skeptical about this recipe. My husband was overtly wary of it, not being negative while I was making it but definitely lacking his usual enthusiasm for my cooking. I could tell: he thought I was crazy. I, on the other hand, and totally unbeknownst to my husband, was quietly, silently skeptical. C’mon, sweet potatoes? On tostadas? This isn’t going to be good. This is not going to go over well.  Why am I making this?

Turns out, I was making it because IT IS AWESOME. My intuition for recipes is pretty good, and when I first saw this pop up in my google reader, I had a sense it would be great (it was only when I was putting all of my dinner eggs in a sweet potato tostada basket that I began to doubt myself). And I was right!! (The first me, not the doubting me.) So, gentle readers, fear not: this recipe is super yummy. And super good for you!! We gobbled these up and I can’t wait to make them again.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tostadas

From Two Peas and Their Pod

2 large sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into small cubes
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 corn tortillas
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, diced
1 lime, cut into wedges
Shredded cheese (optional)
Salsa or hot sauce (optional)

directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place sweet potato cubes on a large baking sheet. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft and tender. Stir a couple of times while they are roasting.

2. In a non-stick skillet, heat corn tortillas over medium-high heat. When tortillas start to bubble up, flip and heat the other side until golden brown, about 30 seconds for each side. Place tortillas on a baking sheet and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place under a hot broiler for about 2 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over tortillas. Place tortillas back under the broiler for another two minutes.*

3. Heat black beans over the stove or in the microwave. Top tortillas with beans, sweet potatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and any other toppings you desire. Serve warm.

*I heated my tortillas up by putting them directly on the burner over a medium flame, and flipping them with tongs. This is how I always heat up corn tortillas for tacos, and it’s very quick, but it did result in softer tortillas you’d get if you followed the recipe,so our tostadas were a bit floppy and we ended up eating them like great big tacos.

I think of all the seasons, I get most excited for fall… after weeks of being unable to turn on the oven – even dreading having a single burner on because it will turn the kitchen into a sweltering sauna – suddenly finding myself able to to roast or simmer or braise to my heart’s content comes as a relief. I love cooking with butternut squash and pumpkin again, warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, slow-cooking braises where the meat falls off the bone. There is nothing so satisfying and comforting as tucking into a big bowl of steamy, hearty soup on a chilly fall day.

This soup certainly fits the bill. It’s about as hearty and wholesome as they get – big chunks of colorful, tasty fall veggies, chock full of fiber- and protein-packed lentils, bursts of vitamin-rich spinach, all melding together in a flavorful, soothing broth. It’s perfect for fall. James and I have been enjoying the heck out it – the recipe makes a lot so we’re getting quite a few easy dinners out of the leftovers. After a long  hike yesterday up a mountain in central New Hampshire, it sure was nice to come home and heat up a couple of servings of this deliciousness.

The original recipe calls for just sweet potatoes, but I had half of a butternut squash already peeled in the fridge, leftover from another dish, so I chopped it up and threw that in as well. I think it’s a winning addition – I’m crazy for butternut squash – so I think I’ll add it to this soup from now on. Feel free to leave it out, or even substitute a different kind of winter squash… I’m think I’ll have to try pumpkin one of these days. Swiss chard, tough stems removed, could be substituted for the spinach. The original recipe also calls for vegetable broth, which would make this meal vegetarian, but I prefer the savory goodness of chicken broth.

Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Squash and Spinach

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Serves: 8 – 10

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 cups brown lentils

4 (15 ounce) cans chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

3 cups water

2 cans (15 ounce) diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and garlic is just barely starting to brown. Add carrot, celery, sweet potatoes, and squash. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables soften, about 6 – 9 minutes.
  2. Stir in the lentils, broth, and water. Add the diced tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Cook on medium-low heat for about 35-40 minutes or until lentils are cooked.
  3. Add the fresh spinach and stir. If necessary, season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves and serve.

All together, now: yummmm!

This was a yummy, hearty, delicious bowl of comfort food goodness. And it was healthy! I used whole wheat penne and the dish is loaded with veggies. Plus it’s meat-free, but you won’t notice it – my husband was shocked when I pointed out that there was no meat. He didn’t miss it at all, and this is a guy who needs meat to consider it a complete dinner. This pasta is extremely satisfying and filling and very flavorful. It’s one of those rare pasta dishes that you can eat your fill and thoroughly enjoy each delicious bite and walk away without feeling bloated or heavy.

I’ll say it again: yum! I need to make this again soon. It’s a perfect fall dish and comes together very easily, but it’s so complex and flavorful that you’d think it came from a restaurant.

Penne alla Norma

Adapted from Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast
Serves: 4 to 6 Prep time: 20 minutesTotal time: 20 minutes
 

Coarse Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound penne rigate (I used whole wheat)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch chunks

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup water, plus more as needed

1/2 cup firmly packed torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

  1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente – I set my timer for one minute less than the shortest time in the directions. Drain pasta and return to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add eggplant; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until eggplant begins to release its juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes (if mixture begins to brown too much on the bottom of the pan, add up to a few tablespoons of water, and scrape up bits with a wooden spoon).
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomato mixture and basil to pot, and toss with pasta; briefly reheat over medium-low if necessary. To serve, divide among bowls; top each with a dollop of ricotta, and garnish with additional basil and a couple grinds of black pepper.

I like to have healthy, interesting things for lunch – I find the same old peanut butter and jelly or meat and cheese sandwiches every day tend to get tired. I really like to mix things up with whole grain salads that are really self-contained, perfect little meals: protein, whole grain, and vegetable. I like it – and I don’t do it nearly enough. Hardly at all, if we’re being completely honest: sandwiches are just so stinkin’ easy.

However. If you’re willing to put in a wee bit more effort than slathering a slice of bread with peanut butter, you can have a tasty, flavorful, interesting meal that is both delicious and healthy. You’ll walk away from your lunch thinking, “Wow, I just did something really good for myself.” And maybe your good lunchtime behavior will inspire you to skip that 3pm trip to the vending machine, who knows.

The point is: this is a delicious meal, easy to prepare the night before and toss in your bag or briefcase and really, I should make it more often. And so should you.

Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries

adapted from Erin’s Food Files

Makes about 5 Servings

1 medium butternut squash (or other hard winter squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup uncooked quinoa

2 cups water

1 onion, diced

4-5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Zest of one orange*

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup dried cranberries**

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash and onion with a bit of olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Roast vegetables, stirring occasionally, until tender – about 30 minutes. Allow to cool before combining with other ingredients.
  2. Place the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a medium pot  and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, zest (if using), spices, and 1 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, combine squash and onions, quinoa, garbanzo, and dried fruit. Pour on the dressing and stir to combine. Taste to check seasoning. This salad can be served room temperature or cold.

*I skipped this because I didn’t have an orange, and it was fine without it.

** My grocery store was all out of dried cranberries, so I used something called “antioxidant blend,” which was a mix of dried plums, blueberries, cherries and cranberries. It worked well.

There are many great things about living in New England, but the Mexican food is not one of them. My husband grew up in central California and we lived in Los Angeles for two years before moving to Massachusetts, so we (especially James) are used to good authentic Mexican food. We knew it would be hard, living in Massachusetts, to find good Mexican food, but we didn’t think it would be impossible. We asked around, got suggestions from people who live here, and hit up the local Mexican joints.

The salsa is the first indication of the quality of the food. The Mexican-ness of it, if you will. So when we get served up a dish of ketchup that the waitress proudly declares is their house-made salsa, we know. New Englanders, it seems, have no idea what real salsa is like: fiery and bright, zinging with cilantro and lime, pureed nearly smooth, spicy but not just spicy – complex and interesting.

There are very, very few restaurants that serve this sort of salsa in New England.

So when this recipe appeared in my google reader, I knew I had to try it. James is a salsa fiend. And it’s a winner. Ree Drummond,  AKA the Pioneer Woman, may live on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma, but sister knows her salsa.

It’s everything that salsa should be, it’s as close to true Mexican salsa that we can get out here. And best of all, it’s easy to put together. It uses canned tomatoes, which are consistently tasty year round, so your salsa consumption doesn’t have to be relegated to the few weeks in summer when local tomatoes are ripe. And it makes probably four or five cups of salsa, which is a whole lot of salsa (unless you’re James).

If you’re looking for a dip to bring to a Superbowl game this weekend, trust me: bring this.

Pioneer Woman’s Salsa

From The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes in juice

2 cans (10 oz) diced tomatoes and chiles (Rotel, if you can find it)

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, chopped (with seeds)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup cilantro (I tend to lean more towards 1 cup)

Juice of half of a lime

Put all of the ingredients in your food processor or blender and pulse to achieve your desired consistency. PW recommends 10 to 15 pulses, so that’s pretty much what I do, too. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, and serve with tortilla chips.

My husband does not like vegetables. He eats them only because I make them and because he knows they’re good for him.  So when I suggested ratatouille for dinner, a dish made up entirely of vegetables, including suspicious ones like eggplant, he was less than enthusiastic about it. It was like I had thrown a wet, vegetable-y blanket over his hopes for dinner.

Well, he shouldn’t have worried, because this dish is awesome. It’s hearty and delicious and flavorful and a decidedly un-vegetable-y way to have vegetables. James loved it. Loved it! I’ve made it several times since it appeared in the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food, and each time James eats it enthusiastically.

Ratatouille is a quintessential French peasant dish, and like all good peasant dishes, it’s comforting, hearty, flavorful, and cheap to make. And it makes a ton. You can serve it several ways: by itself, as a side, over pasta or polenta. You can put it in a ramekin with a raw egg in the middle and bake it until the egg is set (a very yummy way to have it). You can put it on top of toasts like bruschetta.

Ratatouille

From Everyday Food, October 2010

Prep: 20 minutes

Total: 1 hour 15 minutes

Makes: 3 quarts

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large eggplant (1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces

Coarse salt and ground pepper

2 large yellow onions (1 pound total), diced large

1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled

2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and diced large

2 large zucchini (1 pound total), diced large

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or oregano leaves (I use 1 tsp dried oregano)

2 to 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour tomatoes and juices on a rimmed baking sheet and use your hands to carefully crush tomatoes into 3/4-inch pieces. (The tomatoes may be bursting with liquid so be careful not to squirt tomato juice all over your kitchen.) Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake until thickened, 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a colander, toss eggplant with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Let sit 20 minutes, then squeeze out excess liquid. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until onions and garlic are soft, 5 minutes. Add peppers and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bay leaf, and oregano to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook at a gentle simmer until vegetables are tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar – I always use 3 tablespoons, but adjust it to your taste. Season with salt and pepper and remove bay leaf before serving.

I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. I have a collection of more recipes than I can ever actually make, probably, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting more. So whenever our weekend errands include getting my husband a haircut, I happily wait for him while perusing the salon (“salon” sounds awfully girly and expensive, and this place is neither, but it’s not a barber shop because they cater to men and women, so what else can I call it?)’s magazines. If I find something I like, I’ll copy it down in my iPhone, or if I’m in a hurry I’ll take pictures with my iPhone and hope that the text won’t be too blurry to decipher later. My magazine of choice is Real Simple, which I kind of want to subscribe to, but I’m not really motivated to since I can get it for free at the haircutting place. Ha!

The last time we went, I couldn’t find the latest issue of Real Simple, so I wound up looking at Women’s Health. Not the kind of magazine I’d immediately reach for in a waiting room, but I’m glad I did because I found a bunch of yummy-looking recipes, this one included. I furiously copied it into my iPhone and emailed it to my mom and sister, then a couple of days later I found an excuse to make it.

This is a really good stew, but I think it could use some improvements.  I definitely liked it better the second day, when I served it over couscous (rice would be good too) – without it, the stew didn’t seem substantial enough. My hubby and I agreed that it would be better with some shredded chicken in it, too. And I might bulk it up even more with a second can of chickpeas – if I were to keep this strictly vegetarian and skipped the shredded meat, I’d definitely add another can of chickpeas.

I was surprised, given all the cumin and curry powder, that this stew isn’t at all spicy. It definitely has lots of flavor, but hardly any heat. And that’s perfectly fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but I like my curries to be spicy.  Next time I make this (and there will definitely be a next time), I’ll add 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes in step 2, when you add the curry powder and cumin.

Curried sweet potato and chickpea stew

adapted from Women’s Health, April 2010

1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups sliced onion
2 c coarsely chopped red bell pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 qt low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
4 c peeled 1/2 inch pieces of sweet potato or butternut squash
1 (or 2) cans chickpeas, drained
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
3/8 tsp ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion and bell pepper; cook for 8 minutes or until tender.

2. Stir in curry powder, cumin,  crushed red pepper, if using, and 1/4 tsp salt, cook 2 minutes. Add broth and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Remove 1 cup of potatoes and mash with a fork. Stir mashed potatoes back into pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes to allow mixture to thicken. Stir in chickpeas, coconut milk, shredded chicken, if using, cilantro and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until warm throughout. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and serve, over brown rice or couscous if desired.

Makes four servings.