Curry Lentil Soup with Spinach

If you haven’t guessed yet, you will find that most of my recipes are meatless.  Now my ancestors aren’t to happy about that, so every once in a while I will cook up a pork chop in their honor…but not today.

Today, it’s all about lentils; the most amazing legume out there because of its higher than most dietary fiber content.  What does fiber mean for us?  Nicer, gentler trips to the bathroom (for those that suffer from being backed up) and lower cholesterol.  Now…who doesn’t want these benefits?

I live with my teenaged daughter who has been a vegetarian for a few years now and we don’t keep any meat (except for the ancestors) in the house.  This helps me out health-wise and dollar-wise.  But here’s the problem; the child hates beans.  In fact she hates a ton of things most vegetarians love.  So when I’m making a bean dish (with the exception of the chickpea fritters), I just need to make enough for me.  Preparing lentils is easy when serving one person.  They cook in minutes without soaking!! So this makes them a perfect last-minute bean option.

Usually most of my recipes will not have measurements because I don’t measure most things I cook unless I’m baking.  Please don’t ask me, how much onions or salt or pepper, ’cause I won’t have a clue. However for this recipe, I’m going to have mercy on those who need it and offer measurement suggestions only for some of the ingredients.  Lentils soak up a lot of liquids (and thus flavor) so I like to be exact when measuring them out and adding the cooking stock.

Curry Lentil Soup with Spinach (for one)

Ingredients

1/2 cup Lentil Beans – red split, dry – I love these lentils in particular for no other reason than the fact that they start off pink and then turn yellow when cooked.  You don’t have to soak these but they need a good rinse and sort.
Onions chopped
Garlic finely chopped
Yukon gold potato – peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
Curry Powder – the Trinidadian  kind is so good in this recipe
1 cup vegetable stock – low/no sodium
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup Spinach – fresh
Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil or expeller-pressed coconut oil for sauteing

In a quart size pot heat oil.  When hot, add onions and saute until tender.  Add garlic and quickly saute.

Sprinkle in the curry powder.  Listen up people!! There is nothing better than cooking spices with a bit of oil in ANY dish.  Spices have a rawness to them and sauteing them first before adding any kind of liquid is out of this world and frankly a requirement in any dish I make.

As soon as the spices start to smoke up the joint, add the lentils and saute some more.  I think cooking beans or even rice for that matter this way adds so much more flavor and almost a minute hint of nuttiness to the dish.  Once the beans are coated, throw in the potatoes.

NOW YOU CAN ADD THE LIQUID! BUT HOLD THE SALT!  I don’t add salt to beans until they’re done.  Salt makes the beans tough while they’re cooking.  I’ve heard this somewhere and it’s true as far as I’m concerned.

Simmer until almost all of the liquid is absorbed and lentils and potatoes are tender.  If these were your average bean, we’d be talking almost an hour (even after soaking), but we’re talking about lentils people!  They are usually done in like 15-20 minutes!

About 5 minutes before they’re done, throw in the spinach.  Spinach adds great texture and nutrients to this one-pot dish. But you don’t want to over cook them or you’ll lose all of these benefits.  Now you can add salt here as well if you like.

One last thing I like to do is to take out my good ‘ole immersion blender and get to blending…just a bit to thicken this dish up.  Make sure to keep the integrity of most of the beans and potatoes.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a potato masher.

Variations – if you like carrots, chop them and saute along with the onions and garlic. Want some meat in there?  Saute sliced turkey sausage along with the onions and garlic.  As a topping, I sometimes sprinkle a little crumbled feta cheese once served.

Hope you like it!  Lemme know!

Guest Post – "Stop the Insanity"

Here’s a post from a friend of mine who I invited to share with you all as well. He just started is own blog which you can find here:

http://firedupwellness.blogspot.com/

Welcome FiredUp!




This past January like so many of you, I decided to take a fresh new look at my wellness. No, I did not join a gym or start some fad diet. I fired my doctor! This was not a revelation, but a revolution that also prompted me to make changes that will put me on the road to health.



Being overweight is not new for me. I was a chubby kid, overweight teen and yo-yo’ed for much of my 20’s and 30’s. I had some successful weight losses. During my junior year of high school, I lost 70 pounds on one of those weight loss clinics that offer counseling as well as a food-based weight loss program. I did well. But over the next 4 years the weight came back. After college graduation, I lost weight again. This time through caloric reduction and intense exercise. I had a lot of free time then.



Fast forward ten years, a demanding career with a crazy traveling schedule I am at the heaviest I have ever been. How did I get this way? Well, I am just starting to figure that out. In the ten years, I have been to a nutritionist, personal trainers, weight loss providers and of course my doctor.



Here is a synopsis:



  1. The nutritionist told me to “take a dinner plate and divide it into four parts – three of the four parts need to be vegetables”. Needless to my first visit was my last.
  2. The personal trainer, at 10 years younger and 200 pounds smaller than me, saw a big guy and worked me too hard, to the point where I ended up bed ridden with a herniated disk for 8 weeks.
  3. WeightWatchers, although helpful, sends mixed messages with counting calories instead of discussing quality and quantity of food. Besides the group counseling sessions are filled with mom’s struggling with their weight. That really doesn’t apply to my lifestyle.
  4. My doctor of 10 years told me to get weight loss surgery, and pushed it pretty hard.



Through all this, I could not seem to get the mantra of that fitness and diet guru Susan Powter (you know the one from 1990’s with that white buzz cut) out of my head. Remember “Stop the Insanity”? Although maybe a little whacked out, she was kind of on to something. She mentioned that she too, went to the weight loss industry, the medical industry and the food industry all to help her lose weight. The problem is that none of them really want you to lose weight… or maybe better yet, they actually just don’t know how. Isn’t that amazing, they don’t know how. We have learned so many lies about food, our relationship with it, what is healthy and what is not, that even the experts do not know really how to keep us healthy. IF they don’t know, what are we supposed to do? Fire them all! And that is what I did!

Whole Wheat Cashews

Short tale for you all…
I am becoming more and more successful at brainwashing my children when it comes to eating right.
My daughter spots a package marked Whole Cashews on the kitchen counter and yells to me across the house “Ma! Where in the world did you find whole wheat cashews????!?!?!”
Ba-dumdum.

Recipe of the Month – WW Oatmeal Raisin Nut Cookies

Delish! All Whole Grain, All Natural, All that.

1/2 cup organic unsalted butter
1/2 cup Sucanat (non-refined cane sugar)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 walnuts or toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter and sucanat until smooth and silky. Add in egg and vanilla and mix until well blended. In another bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture and stir until well blended.
Add remaining ingredients one at a time until all mixed in.

Using a tablespoon measure, scoop onto parchment lined backing sheets; 12 at a time and flatten with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Cool on pan for a few minutes and transfer onto backing rack to cool completely or….Enjoy warm if you can’t help yourself!

Makes about 2 dozen

Day 118 – Great News from my Doctor!!!!

When folks challenge me about my new “weird” eating habits and roll their eyes when they think I’m not looking, I always felt that I would be vindicated one day. Today is that day.
When I look at my scale with scorn because I truly believe it’s lying to me most of the time, I always try and remember that there is a higher purpose to my mission besides saying goodbye forever to the pounds that refuse to leave me without a fight. Today, that mission was reinforced.
At the end of December, I visited my regular (and fabulous) primary care physician, Dr. Susan Minkowitz. I’ve been seeing Dr. Minkowitz for a long time now and even though her office was in the heart of Chinatown, I would make the trek because she is the genuine article; warm, knowledgeable and…hilarious! Her favorite line when I’m not feeling well is “I’m gonna fix ya!” and she does!!
So at the very end of last year, I knew I had to do something to once and for all get my health to a point where I didn’t have to rely on high-blood pressure medication anymore. I’ve known the solution for years. I had to eat right and get rid of the weight. Hypertension, cancer and diabetes run rampant up and down my family tree and I’ve seen lots of relatives die from these diseases way too early and I am not prepared to add my name to the list.
My blood work is typically…EH, so-so, ok, not bad, but never really great. I’ll be 43 soon and those “EH, so-so, ok, not bad, numbers ain’t cute because as some of you know, it’s harder to combat ailments and illnesses as we get older. I needed to make a change (did you hear Michael Jackson just now too?).
Immediately on January 1st (always a good day to start over), I began to eat natural, whole, minimally processed foods exclusively (on excellent days). Education is key. I made a few mistakes here and there. I didn’t know if certain ingredients on packages where ok and I still struggle with understanding the impact of certain food items on my health but for the most part, I have made a full transition.
Today is Day 118; four months in deep. I feel good physically and mentally and most importantly…I don’t feel deprived. On Friday, I went back to see Dr. Minkowitz who has now moved to Chelsea and she ran the standard blood tests again. She just called me back with the results. I want to share my numbers with you:

Glucose (aka “sugah”)*: was 91, now 79
Cholesterol**: was 207 (borderline/high risk), now 173 (desirable/low risk)
Vitamin D***: was 8 (crazy deficient), now 28 (yay I’m normal now!)
Weight: hahahahahahaaaaa. There is no way I’m revealing that, BUT I am pleased to report that there was a loss of 10 pounds.
Blood Pressure: GREAT!! Still on meds, but the number is the best it’s been in a long time even on meds.

I’m asking …no begging, my friends and family out there to please, please, please go see your doctor. Some of the most serious diseases are silent killers. Take care of your health. Stop eating hydrogenated fats and EAT MORE FIBER. I said “EAT”, not “take fiber pills or supplements”.

My favorite high fiber foods are:
Beans, especially lentils
Leafy greens of any kind
Whole grains (not to be confused with multigrains)

My favorite sweeteners are:
Raw honey
Agave nectar
Pure liquid stevia
Succanat (an extremely pure form of raw sugar), not Sugar in the Raw

For information on what our numbers should be, please check out these resources below.
* – http://diabetes.about.com/od/symptomsdiagnosis/a/glucoselevels.htm
** – http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=183
*** – http://diabetes.about.com/od/symptomsdiagnosis/a/glucoselevels.htm

P.S. – Read my previous post about the foods I refuse to give up. I am pretty much still stubborn about my hunnies (that’s what I call the food I love).

Day 50 – All Brown Rice is (are?) not Created Equal

Am I typically a patient person?? Well that depends on whether I’m in a hurry or not. Hahaaaaa!

The beauty in cooking with only whole foods is the time, love and care it takes to create a wonderful meal from scratch. The satisfaction I feel in knowing exactly what I’m consuming is also reassuring. However…there are those days when I get home and need to throw a meal together in a matter of minutes. Usually this would lead me to pull some prepared food concoction in my cupboard or freezer that’s usually loaded with additives, sugars and a plethora (I love this word) of processed ingredients. Now I know better, and instead I turn the oven up really high to 400 or so, and start chopping up some fresh veggies that I’ll coat with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt, and spices and throw the whole lot in for about 20 min. Maybe while those are roasting, I’ll pop some fresh fish on a hot grill pan as well.
While starch is not always a necessity, I do crave brown rice every now and then, but while I’m cooking everything else, I spend most of this time hemmin’ and hawin’ about whether I even want the damned rice. By the time the veggies and fish are almost done, it’s too late to get the rice going and unfortunately brown rice usually takes 45 minutes to cook…or so I thought.

Because of my new found mistrust of the food industry, I was initially skeptical of Success Boil-in-Bag Whole Grain Brown Rice which only takes 10 minutes to make. Ingredient: Precooked Parboiled Whole Grain Brown Rice (Long Grain)

The mere term “boil-in-bag” was frowned upon in my house as a kid. My mother being from Charleston SC, would NEVAH-EVAH, I mean under no circumstances known to mankind, buy a “boil-in-bag” rice product but then again, she also would never eat brown rice either. So I’m basically dishonoring my geechee ancestors and family on both fronts, just by endorsing this product anyway.

But here’s what I found out. The nutritional benefit of this particular brand/process is actually a bit more favorable than regular brown rice…I still don’t believe it. And by a “bit more favorable” I mean that it contains one more gram of fiber…that’s it; nothing to get over-excited about of course. I suspect that this has something to do with the par-boiling process. I would like to care enough to delve deeper, but I’m afraid of what I’ll discover. So for now ignorance is bliss.
Feel free however to dash my hopes!

Day 39 – The Not-So-Last Temptation…

Ask anyone who’s been on a diet about the honeymoon stage. It’s the stage where you’re sticking to the plan; you’re in total and complete love with the plan. Your willpower is strong and you tend to make speeches about the merits of the plan and how well you’re doing together.

I was on my honeymoon for an entire month, but now…the honeymoon is over. Now I’m married to the plan and although I know it’s good for me in the long run, my eyes are starting to wander.

Last month, I resisted temptation(s) without much of a problem. I was able to handle the restaurant challenges and I could bypass my regular naughty haunts with ease, but recently I ran into a problem with a botched oven repair project of mine (long story) that left me with only my microwave as a cooking tool for almost two weeks. If I lived alone, maybe I could have survived on salad for dinner every night, but (here’s where she blames it on the kids folks) I have the two teens that insisted on ordering take out every night for dinner.

When you start to slide even a tiny bit (in my case that meant eating things that I didn’t personally prepare or wasn’t entirely privy to the ingredients), the door to bigger temptations, opens just a bit wider. Through this door, just taunting me with their utter deliciousness were the following:

  • Cheddar and Sour Cream Flavored Wise Ridgies Potato Chips
  • IKEA Cinnamon Buns

I’ll admit it. The chips were my fault. I bought them for my daughter’s (you can always blame the kids) little gathering of friends coming over to work on a school project. I figured I’d be out of the house while they devoured all four bags and that upon my return, they’d all be gone (the chips and the company). When I did return however, there were three large bags left unopened on my kitchen counter. I should have sent the unopened bags home with the departing visitors but I had a mental block darnit! And I think I was a bit cocky; thinking that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat them. That was yesterday…I want those chips! I want those chips so bad I could go in that kitchen right now and eat an entire bag all by myself. I’m dying here people!

Exposing myself to the IKEA cinnamon buns wasn’t entirely my fault. I went shopping for a bookcase yesterday and my friends drove me to that God forsaken place. I should have had breakfast beforehand, but instead all I had was a banana; thinking that we would have brunch before we hit the stores. That plan was blown, but thank goodness one of my friends had an orange in her bag so I wasn’t starving by the time we reached the IKEA restaurant that surprisingly had quite a few healthy whole food choices. There was no sign of those luscious cinnamon buns anywhere (oddly enough) and I almost thought I was going to escape the store without a hitch…until I left the checkout…OH GOD THE SMELL OF THE CINNAMON BUNS PEOPLE!!! It just hits you! KAPOW! My enabler…ooops I mean my friend, asked if I wanted to split one with her. I walked as if in a trance directly over to the food section and was just about to say yes. Then I stopped. I stopped and said “no.” We all made a bee line for the door and left.

So you’re probably wondering about my strategy for resisting temptation this time around. The strategy is simple, but remembering to use what I know is what makes it hard to execute. The strategy is to think about the ingredients; not the calories or fat grams or carbs, but just simply the ingredients. I knew right away that the cinnamon buns consisted of white flour, white sugar and yeast; right away three items I wanted to avoid. And silly me, I figured the chips were fried in corn, cottonseed or canola oil (ALL BAD!!), but little did I realize how long the ingredient list would actually pan out to be once I read it on the bag. Soooo, I just have to keep reminding myself about what’s at stake here…good health and peace of mind. Eating whole, minimally processed foods will get me both as long as I continue to educate myself and stay alert. Avoidance is not the answer because it’s not realistic. There is bad shit everywhere!

Just in case you’re wondering about the complete ingredient lists for both of these temptations, click on the images below.
Note: I tried for the life of me to find the real bona fide ingredients list for the Ikea Cinnamon Buns, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I guess I should have bought them after all. All in the name of research of course. Instead I link to a Swedish recipe I found.

Day 17 – Creeping Pounds

I sometimes find myself watching these shows with titles like “The Fattest Man Alive” or “The 1,000 pound Woman” on Discovery Health, TLC or the like. I think like most viewers, I watch transfixed and mesmerized thinking to myself, “How did they let themselves get like this?”
It’s a valid question. These folks were walking at one point and bed-ridden the next. When was the tipping point for them?
Instead of judging them, I began to relate…because it has happened to me…on several occasions, but on a smaller degree of course.
Pounds creep. I experienced my first major weight-loss breakthrough in 1990-91. My mother had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic and liver cancer. Ironically I didn’t lose the weight because of stress. In fact I am a bona fide stress eater, but my sister and I had started an amazing program where we ate healthy food and exercised at home daily. The pounds creeped off little by little and I was in control of my health as opposed the lack of control I felt I had over my mother’s deteriorating health. After Mommy died, the pounds started to creep back on again little by little; this time in the opposite direction.
So…two kids later, the yo-yo of pounds in one direction or the other continued to bounce. At my heaviest moments, I always wondered “How did I let myself get like this?” What’s funny though, is that I never asked myself that question while trying to lose the weight. But I’m asking myself the question now.
When I see the pounds slowly (excruciatingly slow) creeping away, I try and remember that I didn’t gain the weight overnight so I shouldn’t think I can lose it overnight.
Pounds creep. Here I am at Day 17 and I’ve lost only four whole pounds, but I’m trying really hard to convince myself that it’s OK. I’ll try and stay motivated by reflecting on all of the times I’ve successfully lost weight before; knowing that every successful attempt had been a healthy one.
That’s what really really matters…Right?

Day 8 – Eating Out (aka My Favorite Restaurant Scene in When Harry Met Sally)

My most memorable and favorite scene from When Harry Met Sally was the restaurant scene, but NOT the one you’re probably thinking of…

Sally was way ahead of her time.  She didn’t give a damn if she sounded like a crazy anal retentive loon.  Here’s a woman who wasn’t afraid to order her food exactly the way she wanted it prepared.  Check her out with “oil and vinegar on the side”.  No one was asking for that back in the day!  Granted, I don’t plan on ordering pie a la mode (I type while biting my knuckles), but I can certainly use her ordering methods when I go out to eat right?

Day 6 – What Inspired Me to go Nude

A few of the things that inspired me to change:

  1. I was diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency – when my doctor told me that my number was an 8, it didn’t mean that much to me until she told me what the normal range should be from the lowest to the highest…20-100.  That made me blink a few times.  I realized that my aches, pains, lethargy, and depression all could be caused by this one problem….in addition to the fact that I’m overweight of course.
  2. Two movies – Food Inc and Botany of Desire.  If you haven’t seen them, then please do so right now.  The former deals with how the food industry has trained us to eat and how, ironically enough, we’re to blame.  The latter focuses on the survival of the fitess in the world of plant life…very good stuff.
  3. Looking at pictures of myself – I have gone up and down and up and down; all fully documented in four-color…enough said.

It isn’t enough to say you want to change.  I think my problem has always been not remembering why I wanted to change.  Sure I want to look good but I want to FEEL good too.  I will look to my inspiration anchors above if I lose sight of the why…Hopefully that will help.