Lentils and Cabbage: Hearty & Healthy

I’ve been on a cabbage kick lately, partly because it’s winter and cabbages still abound, fresh and tasty, but also because of this inspirational quote from Johnny Bowden, a nutritionist, who claims that cabbage is “the most important [vegetable] in the world from the point of view of nutritional benefits and cancer-fighting ability.”  For more healthy benefits of cabbage see below and explore here.  This recipe comes from Martha Rose Shulman’s Eating for Health column for The New York Times.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, half of it chopped, half sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 lb lentils
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 oz waxy potatoes, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 lbs green cabbage (1 medium head), cut into 3/4 inch wide ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped half of the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add 2 of the garlic cloves and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  4. Add the lentils, water, chile, and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Add 1 tsp salt and the potatoes.  Continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils and potatoes are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. While the lentils are simmering…
  8. In a wide skillet heat the remaining olive oil over medium and add the sliced onion.  Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes.
  9. Add 1/2 tsp salt and the remaining garlic.  Stir and cook about 1 minute.
  10. Add the cabbage and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook, stirring, until the cabbage begins to wilt.
  11. Add 1/4 cup water, lower the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the cabbage is tender and sweet, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  12. To serve: spread the cabbage over the bottom of the pan, top with lentils and potatoes, sprinkle with parsley (Parmesan optional), and serve in soup bowls.

Nutrition Information

  • Cabbage protects the body from cancer-causing free radicals and helps metabolize estrogens.
  • Cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamins K and C and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Lentils are high in fiber and protein-rich.
  • Lentils are an excllent source of manganese, iron, phosphorous, copper, vitamin B1, potassium, and molybdenum (a mineral important in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and iron.

Source: Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times, Recipes for Health

Advertisements

Afternoon Snack: Sweet Potato with a Dash of This and That

DSCF0005Yes. this is a picture of a decimated sweet potato skin. This is what I do to food the second I return home from work.  First there’s the traffic, time to contemplate just how hungry I am, and then there is the shoveling sustenance into mouth.

Often I crave sweet at these ravenous moments.  My after work snacks frequently interfere with my dinner appetite, are usually calorie-laden, and are almost always nutrition-light.  But, and here’s the key point, this snack takes less than seven minutes to prepare!  Also, it’s delicious. To top it all off, the sweet potato is the most nutritious vegetable according to a 1992 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

So here’s my new go-to snack….

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato
  • [optional] butter or honey (not both)
  • Macadamia nuts, chopped
  • crystallized ginger, chopped
  • Shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • a dash of cinammon
  • a pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Wash and scrub sweet potato.  Puncture with a fork a few times and pop into the microwave.  Microwaves vary, I put it on high for 5 minutes, check, and often add another minute.
  2. Meanwhile, chop up two macadamia nuts (just two, you ask.  Yup, just two) and a small piece of crystallized ginger.  You should have about twice as much chopped up nut as ginger.  Mix together with a pinch each of the following: nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and sea salt.  Sprinkle a bit of shredded unsweetened coconut into the ingredients.  Stir together.
  3. Cut open the sweet potato and mash flesh with fork.  I add a small pad of butter, but if you’re worried about the calories, you can certainly make do without or substitute honey.  Then mix in the ingredients.  Basically, you’ve made a delicious mashed sweet potato meal in the microwaved skins of one lucky veggie.  Eat and enjoy.

Why is a sweet potato so healthy?

  • Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin B6. potassium, iron, and antioxidants.
  • Sweet potatoes are good for the liver.
  • They can help the body avoid  developing diabetes because they are good at stabilizing blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance.
  • A small sweet potato, baked, is only about 90 calories.

Lentil and Farro Curry Soup

After a week at my brother-in-law’s with nary a vegetable in sight, I craved something healthy to spoon into my mouth.  (The food at my brother-in-law’s was good.  Christmas cookies galore– seriously, breakfast, lunch, and dinner– and my sister-in-law roasted a turkey with commendably crisped skin, etc., etc., but I don’t count mashed potatoes as a vegetable and started having concerns about scurvy….)  I don’t feel good when I don’t eat well, so after our seven hour return car trip (thank you, my dear husband, for driving the whole thing!) I went immediately to the bookshelf for Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook.  This soup, the very first recipe that my eye fell upon, was exactly what I was after: easy to prepare, relatively quick, super healthy, nearly all the ingredients were already in the house (I had to nip out for an onion, but that, after all, is just poor planning on my part), and my husband, carnivore that he is, would eat it too (he has a soft soft for lentils and Indian spices).  Perfect!

A note on farro: This grain is not carried at all supermarkets.  I usually buy it at Trader Joe’s (reasonably priced), although in a pinch you can throw down extra green and procure it at Whole Foods.  But, and this is delightful, the last time I was at Costco, they had large bags of farro!  If it is selling at Costco next to the quinoa, then I know it will take off at your local grocery store any day now.  People are joining my farro celebration (it’s super tasty and good for you).

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 cup peeled and diced sweet potato (one small sweet potato)
  • Salt
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 2/3 cup semi-pearled farro (you can use whole farro, just double the cooking time)
  • 1 1/4 cups green lentils
  • 6 cups water (or vegetable broth– my husband is campaigning for a chicken broth substitution….)
  • Kale (a palm full or more to taste), chopped up into very tiny pieces

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in the onions and sweet potato.  Season with salt and saute until the onions start to soften (a few minutes).
  3. Add the curry powder (the amount varies defending on taste– I like a generous helping) and stir until everything is coated and fragrant (about a minute).
  4. Add the farro, lentils, kale, and liquid.
  5. Bring to a boil, decrease heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes (until the lentils and farro are thoroughly cooked).
  6. Taste and season with salt as necessary.

Heidi Swanson also recommends the soup be served with a dollop of lemony-Greek yogurt and a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil.  My husband doesn’t like lemony food, but the yogurt certainly makes for a fancier presentation (and I think it’s good).  Here’s how to make it:

Lemony Greek Yogurt garnish

Zest and juice half a lemon.  Stir in 1 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 tsp salt.  Stir and serve on top of soup.

Serves 8 people.

Healthy Muffins

Baking, they say, is a science, but in this case it’s more like a healthy science experiment.  These muffins are forgiving; stick to the general ratios and you will create a moist, sweet, and guilt-less snack.

I have been juicing (hence fewer recipe additions because many more of my meals are in vibrantly colored liquid form), but I hate the waste from juicing.  Juicers, if you are unfamiliar, separate the fiber and pulp, gathering the mushy, processed mess in a separate container. Some people compost this fiber, but I live in an apartment building without composting or an outside area, and I felt terribly guilty throwing out all this perfectly good bi-product. And then I found a recipe for these muffins! Melissa Clark’s original recipe does not involve juicing at all, she has you grate fruits and vegetables, but I found that a little adjusting produced excellent fiber-ful muffins and solved my juicing bi-product problem.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (be generous when pouring, a little more flour is useful if your ingreidients are very moist)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 apple juice (preferably freshly juiced and not store bought, cider would also work)
  • 1/3 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 generous cup (or a bit more) of juiced fiber / pulp.  This is where you can mix and match (science experiment, not exact science).  I usually include about 50% greens (spinach and kale are my go to) and 50% sweet stuff (apples and carrots work well). The original recipe called for butternut squash, parsnips, zucchini, and beets.  Generally, I use whatever is on hand.  When I’m saving the fiber from juicing, I make sure that the fruits and vegetables are really, really clean before juicing, remove stems, seeds, etc., and then freeze the bag of fiber until I’m ready to bake.  Honestly, most of the I’m not 100% sure what precisely is in the muffin, but they always come out moist and delicious.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease mini muffin tin.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, honey, sugar, apple juice, and fiber pulp.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Fold in the raisins.
  5. Fill muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes.

These muffins stay really well.  Pop them in the fridge and they’re good for about a week.