Cozy curried sweet potato, lentil and kale stew
We all know the holiday season, as festive and inspiring as it is, can bring on waves of utter exhaustion. But does it ever surprise you how even simply admiring sparkling arrangements of frosted treats can leave you feeling a little ho-ho-bloated? Even just looking at my own blog and the past three weeks of healthy-for-what-they-are treats is bringing on feelings of fullness today. But that could just be me, and just today. In any case, it’s high time for some cozy, healthy comfort food.
The truth is, I’ve been sitting on this recipe for yonks. We have it—or a variation of it—every week. Tonight is one of those nights, featuring my favorite variation (swapping in quinoa for lentils). Given how smooth, subtly creamy, and satisfying this soup-stew is, I don’t know why it’s taken me so to catalog it here, thus making it an official “save”. Maybe I’ve been leery of posting because, having been in the habit of making slightly tweaked versions of it weekly all fall through this winter solstice week, it’s been branded in my brain as being kind of bog standard. So, boring.
Only this soup-stew is not boring. Inviting all those weeks variations alone makes it rather exciting. Plus, it has just enough of a curry-kick to really sooth the throat, heighten the senses, and offer an overall feeling of boosted immunity that goes a long way this cold and flu season. It can be whipped up while dashing about and is highly welcoming of kid chefs of all ages.
Besides all of the above, is there really such a thing as boring? Outside of, say, being stuck in a cubicle against your will or something along those lines. Food is not boring. Nourishment is far from dull. And repetition? If there’s any message the holiday season underscores that’s often overlooked, it’s that repetition is a gift more often than we know.
For several months, much of my non-work, non-running, non-obligatory items time has been rooted in Lego mini-figure play. Chef F is ALL about Lego, superheros, and especially the exquisite combination. We play “goodies and baddies” with Lego minifigures. ALL. THE. TIME. And for a little while, I was admittedly going a little bit out of my mind. Also admittedly, to be fair, that isn’t that far a journey to go.
I was tiring of being Batman—which I know is crazy because, who wouldn’t be Batman given the choice? But I wanted to be less Batman, more Mommy. And just as I was about to really wring out some precious and much needed hair, something clicked. My teacher self stepped in and had a conversation with mama self, and it was beautiful. Both helped each other. I saw the power of all the imaginative play; the vocabulary we were incorporating, the plot lines, the math, science, and discovery. Whenever I started feeling irritable, my teacher self rescued me and offered up ways to get reengaged together enhancing both our experiences. Physics lessons building Minifigure catapults and parachutes, word blending fishing with Batman and Spidey. And when that was getting to be a little overboard, my mama self called it a day and we just relaxed and plain old played. The balance was so lovely, I could finally start to alleviate the guilt when I needed to step out as just me, and get some extra work done, or make dinner with or without Lego assistance.
Aside from teacher-mama talk, this holiday season has offered particular reminders to be grateful for the day-to-day. I reconnected with my oldest childhood friend. In the space of a year, she lost her father, underwent a difficult divorce, and enrolled back in school to earn her teacher’s license while raising her three children. It’s been years, but we’re still there for each other. I love her. Talking with her meant mainly listening, and I wished I could help more. Her attitude though, was so thankful for what she has.
Another friend is going through a tremendously difficult time it isn’t my place to talk about, but you wouldn’t know it unless you were in the know. She continues to give to others, rarely complaining (and when she does it’s really more stating of facts), and supporting everyone around her. She is going through such tough, tough times, but she is a rock. I know if she could have normalcy for just one day, that would feel the greatest blessing.
My grandfather used to say, there’s no such thing as boring, except for people. In other words, boredom is a choice. Eat the soup you enjoy, every day if you like. Slip in those twists and variations. Exercise your creativity. Don’t get complacent, but be grateful. Life’s too short not to spend as much time enjoying those things you love as you can.
Curried sweet potato, red lentil and kale stew
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1 teaspoon curry powder
dash red pepper flakes
1 cup red lentils
3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into chunks (peeled or not)
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cups water or vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 10-ounce package frozen kale, chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can coconut milk (light or full-fat)
1/3 cup natural (nuts only) peanut butter *optional
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large stockpot coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and onion. Cook, stirring, 3-4 minutes, until onion is becoming translucent. Add curry paste and powder and cook a further minute, stirring constantly.
Add lentils, sweet potatoes, pepper, water or broth, tomatoes, kale, chickpeas, and coconut milk to pot. Bring to a near boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring often, 20-25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in peanut butter if using, and lime juice. Continue to simmer, stirring, until peanut butter has been incorporated and stew has reached desired thickness.