Vegan Lentil Stew with Roasted Squash and Kale

Whenever fall starts to settle in, I get the strongest craving for soup! Last week, I was feeling tired of packing salads for lunch, so I whipped up this stew. I incorporated some of the squash I roasted over the weekend and tossed in a few leaves of kale for color. Red lentils serve as a perfect, creamy base since they love to soak up any liquid you use when cooking them. The more liquid you add, the soupier they become. When serving this stew, I tossed some fontina cheese on top, however, if you want to keep it vegan, just leave it off. It made very tasty leftovers for lunch!

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Lentil Stew w/Roasted Squash and Kale (Vegan, Gluten Free)

(Serves ~4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 cup cubed, roasted squash (I used butternut and delicata – just chop into bite size pieces, toss in salt/olive oil, and bake until browned)
  • 3-4 large kale leaves, chopped
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine lentils, water, and broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and partially cover with lid.
  2. Simmer until almost all the liquid is absorbed, ~20 minutes.
  3. Toss in kale, garlic, salt, and garam marsala. Cook another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Toss in roasted squash and cook 1-2 minutes, continuing to stir.
  5. Serve!

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What is your favorite fall soup?

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Spicy Tofu Curry: No Need for Take-Out!

Have you ever had curry? It’s a creamy, spicy dish filled with lots of vegetables and protein which you would normally find at an Indian restaurant. Before Will showed me how to make it when we first started dating, I never would have guessed how simple it is to prepare. Curry was one of the first dishes we ever cooked together! We have made it over and over again since. We love it because you can throw just about any combination of vegetables and protein together with the curry paste, fish sauce, and coconut cream and you have a delicious meal. Have a lot of veggies in your fridge that need used up? Curry is great for that! I think we have tried dozens of combos: squash, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, onions, broccoli, etc. We served ours with black quinoa the other night, but we have also paired it with cauliflower rice.

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The three key ingredients that make this dish really great are: curry paste, canned coconut milk, and fish sauce. You can find curry paste at just about any grocery with an international food aisle. The fish sauce is a little trickier to find, we always buy ours at an Asian grocer in the city. However, if it isn’t available or you want to make the dish vegan-friendly, it can be left out. The final piece is canned coconut milk. Make sure you let the can sit for 24 hours to let the cream and milk separate. You want to be able to scoop the cream out separate from the milk.

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Spicy Homemade Curry

(Serves 3)

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. block of tofu (or protein of your choice)
  • 3 cups chopped vegetables (eggplant, onions, pepper, mushroom – whatever combo you have on hand!)
  • 13.5 oz can coconut cream
  • 2-3 tablespoon curry paste (adjust to your preference – careful, some can be pretty spicy!)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

Directions:

  1. Chop vegetables into evenly sized pieces.
  2. Heat large stock pot over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons coconut cream and curry paste. Stir and cook until they begin to simmer.
  3. Add tofu and fish sauce. Stir to evenly coat with sauce.
  4. Add vegetables and the rest of the can of coconut. Stir gently until it begins to simmer. Cover and continue to simmer until vegetables are tender.
  5. Serve over a grain of your choice.

September is Hunger Awareness Month

As the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) faces a potential $40 billion budget cut, this Hunger Awareness Month comes at just the perfect time. According to the USDA, over 50 million Americans are living in a state of food insecurity. Food insecurity means that a family, at some point during the year, must decide between paying for medical bills, loans, housing, etc. instead of purchasing food. Of note, the individuals within that 50 million are not all adults, that number includes 16.5 million children as well. (Source)
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Food insecurity also contributes to a person’s risk of chronic disease as well. When healthy food costs so much more than the processed stuff, this makes sense. According to 1999-2004 NHANES data, low-income participants were more likely to report a hypertension or high cholesterol. (Source) Individuals struggling food insecurity are also at higher risk for overweight and obesity, especially women and children. In fact, children from low socioeconomic homes are two times more likely to be obese than children from higher income homes. (Source)
The issue of hunger has not gone unnoticed, however. There are hundreds of wonderful organizations out there working to help alleviate food insecurity in our country and around the world. For example, Meals on Wheels provides millions of hot meals to home-bound seniors. Feeding America fights hunger by coordinating thousands of food pantries. No Kid Hungry connects needy children with nutrition programs such as school breakfast and summer meals. Here in Chicago, the Greater Chicago Food Depository feeds thousands of people every year at shelters, pantries, and their Produce-mobiles. These organizations can’t get by without thousands of volunteers and donations – that’s where you and I come in!

Here’s a few ideas of what we can do to help fight hunger and food insecurity:

  • Map the Meal Gap and see how hunger impacts your own community
  • Wear orange to show your support
  • Volunteer at a local food pantry
  • Donate canned goods
  • Take the SNAP challenge and try to eat with only $4.50/day (The CEO of Panera Bread is doing it!)

10 Link Tuesday: Fall Dishes to Drool Over

Happy Tuesday! In case you are catching up, here are a few of my recent recipes and rambles…

Pear Oats Tuesday Now, here are 10 of my favorite posts from around the web this week!

  1. Living as a vegetarian in the South, I was always a little disappointed I never got to try gumbo – but now I can! I plan on making The Healthy Apple’s gluten-free and vegan chickpea gumbo soon.
  2. Delicata squash is one of my favorite veggies. I was so excited to see it appear at the market this week! Just in time to make Angela’s ultra creamy hemp salad dressing + delicata squash salad.
  3. Definitely need to make this honey roasted vegetable + smoked gouda penne ASAP!
  4. Beans and salad are a great match – Will and I put them on ours all the time! This kale and white bean panzanella salad from The Lean Green Bean will be a great way to mix it up a bit.
  5. I really want to try making a bit of this homemade cinnamon dolce latte mix.
  6. When fall arrives, soup is all that I have on my mind. Thinking I will need to make this mushroom + farro soup sometime this season!
  7. Today, Joy the Baker taught me to love brown butter
  8. Tacos make an appearance on our dinner plates frequently. Thinking we’ll have to make these roasted sweet potato + black bean tacos next!
  9. Yum… pumpkin cream donut sandwiches from PaleOMG.
  10. I can’t stop thinking about this sriracha mac + cheese from Shutterbean.

Supplements: Worth the Extra Cost?

Did you know that according to the latest NHANES data from 2006, 53% of the US population takes at least one supplement on a regular basis? (Source) So, if supplements did all that they promised, you would think that our nation’s rate of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes would be lower, right? Research studies which have looked at supplement use and disease risk have often come up with neutral or negative results. Of course, that isn’t what they tell you at the store or in their commercials!
You know what is consistently linked with a lower risk of chronic disease? A high intake of fruits and vegetables.  The combined or synergistic effect of the variety of nutrients in fruits and vegetables are more effective than the isolated nutrients found in supplements. Something I am always happy to hear as fruits and vegetables are much cheaper than supplements. Plus, as a dietitian, I would much rather encourage patients to eat real food than take a pill.
Whole Foods PicTo get a better understanding of the science behind supplements, let’s take a quick look at some of the most recent research. Not all the research is negative, as you’ll see.

  • The Cochrane Library (known for doing excellent study reviews), looked at whether antioxidant supplements (like Vitamin C and E) had any effect on the prevention of disease in healthy persons and those with chronic disease. Antioxidant supplements had no effect on prevention of disease or mortality. In fact, they may slightly increase your risk by about 2%. (Source)
  • In a large study of over 38,000 older women (mean age 61.5), a 6% increased risk of mortality was associated with use of multivitamins and 10% for iron.  The only supplement with a 9% mortality risk reduction was calcium. (Source)
  • Supplements were unable to provide any effect on cardiovascular health risk after reviewing 50 studies. (Source)
  • The famous SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) found that Vitamin E supplementation increased prostate cancer risk by 13% in men 50+ years of age. (Source)
  • Omega 3 supplements and cardiovascular disease risk continues to be debatable – which surprised me! Even though supplementation can lower triglycerides, it has not consistently decreased mortality from cardiovascular disease. (Source)
  • Vitamin D supplementation appears to help prevent falls in the elderly and when combined with calcium, decrease risk of breast cancer by 14-20% per the Women’s Health Initiative Study. (Source)

Overall, it appears that taking supplements to try to ensure that you balance out a poor diet or prevent certain diseases is not going to work. You can’t just take a multivitamin or supplement as “insurance” and continue to eat a diet low in fresh fruits, vegetables, and fiber. A well rounded diet is much more effective for preventing chronic disease over time than supplementation in a healthy individual. Supplements are indicated in some cases such as deficiency as diagnosed by a physician or in early pregnancy (folic acid supplementation helps prevent neural tube defects). In any case, it is best to check with your doctor before starting any supplementation, especially if you are taking other medications. However, for most of us, I think spending a few extra dollars on a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will bring much more satisfaction and health benefits than many dollars better spent on a supplement.

What do you think? Do you take a multivitamin or other supplement?

Vegan Mocha Mousse

Can it be time for another Recipe Redux already?! I admit, the 21st sort of snuck on me this time… oops! However, I still have a really simple and tasty recipe to share with you all today. The one thing I love about this recipe redux is that I get to experiment in the kitchen a bit as I create a dish for each theme. The theme for this month’s round up of recipes was raw/no cook desserts. At first, I wondered, how in the world do I come up a recipe that doesn’t need baked?! After a bit of mulling and perusing our pantry, I created this dessert.
This recipe for mousse is super simple with only 4 ingredients. With just a little planning ahead, you can make this in a matter of minutes. For the best consistency, you’ll want to chill the canned coconut cream overnight as well as soak the dates. Feel free to add berries like I did or a variety of other toppings like shredded coconut, nuts, nut butter, etc. It could also make a delicious parfait if layered with fruit and perhaps some granola.
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Vegan Mocha Mousse
(Serves 2-3)
Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup coconut cream (keep coconut water for another use)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
  • 3/4 cup dates, soaked overnight

Directions:

  1. Put canned coconut cream in fridge to separate overnight. Put dates in a small bowl and cover with water. Place in fridge to soak overnight.
  2. When ready to prepare mousse, add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until mixture becomes fluffy.
  3. Chill for an hour or so to stiffen a bit. Serve with berries or toppings of your choice.

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Indian Spiced Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

One of my absolute favorite foods are sweet potatoes. They are chock full of beta carotene and fiber. Also, they are delicious! I usually just pop one in the microwave for a few minutes for an easy side at dinner. However, I have been meaning to make my sweet potato a little more interesting. I threw this together the other night and loved how it turned out! Will and I had made palak paneer earlier this week so we had Indian spices/flavors in our minds. When I said something about wanting to come up with a new sweet potato recipe, Will suggested I try to incorporate the Indian spice, garam masala. If you are unfamiliar with garam masala, it is a spicy/sweet spice blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper, and coriander used in a lot of Indian dishes like curry. It adds a ton of great flavor to the stir fry stuffing for this dish. To make this a super quick, healthy meal, bake your potatoes in the microwave to save time.
Stuffed Potatoes

Indian Spiced Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
(Serves 2)
Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounce package tempeh, crumbled (ground turkey would work too!)
  • 1/2 large zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 sweet potatoes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse potatoes and poke holes in them with a fork. Place on cookie sheet and bake in the oven until tender, ~45 minutes. Pull from oven and let cool. Slice down the middle of each potato and use a fork to loosen insides.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and chopped vegetables. Stir fry over medium high heat until onion in translucent and other vegetables soften.
  3. Add spices to vegetables in skillet. Toss in tempeh and stir.
  4. Scoop out the soft inside of baked sweet potatoes. Toss into the skillet with the tempeh and vegetables. Stir and heat for another 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stuff filling into potato skins and serve. I enjoyed mine with a side of sauteed zucchini!
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