Nature provides and supports us with its bountiful gifts of food. As the season changes the from heat of summer to the crispness of fall, we look for warmth, comfort and grounding. Instead of light, leafy greens and fruits, the earth now yields to us root vegetables and hearty greens. Root vegetables are satisfying and filling; nature’s true comfort food. Winter greens are sturdy and take time to cook and eat, nurturing our innate desire and need to slow down.
These delights can, of course, be eaten on their own or combined into soups and stews- which as the weather chills can provide a sense of coziness and security. Soups and stews are also great vehicles for including a variety of nutrients in the diet.
The inspiration for the following recipe came from my daughter, Katherine, who spent time working with Americorps. The pay was very small, so it was supplemented with food stamps and foods from the local pantry. This experience created great awareness for my daughter, on both a personal and social level, and spurred lots of creativity. She developed a simple stew of butternut squash and greens using only water as the liquid. It was delicious and sustaining, while mindful of seasonal foods and the need to cook on a budget with limited, time, resources and equipment.
While working on a project to achieve my Culinary Nutrition Expert Certification, I used Katherine’s recipe as inspiration to create a braise that would comfort someone experiencing anxiety and depression- common woes in these cold months. The technique of braising, or cooking in water, is so versatile that this recipe can go from a stew to a soup by just adding extra liquid.
I loved her combination of squash and greens, but I wanted to show case the sweet potato because of its Vitamin B 6 which is a wonderful source of energy and has a calming effect on the body. They also easily stand in for the squash.
Dark greens were a given and part of the original recipe. They are rich in nutrients that support the body in producing serotonin and contain Omega 3 fatty acid, which is a wonderful energy booster.
To give the dish more sustenance, lentils seemed like the perfect partner. They are rich in folate (folate deficiency has been linked to depression) and fiber and are also easy to digest. Lentils cook up quickly and are very appealing to the eye.
As in all aspects of life, a little fun needed to be had so I created Sunshine Sprinkle to top it all off. Cashews and nutritional yeast, two simple ingredients rich in zinc, magnesium and Vitamin B12 (immune boosters, muscle relaxers and depression fighters) came together to make the dish shine and to help you to be on your way to “feelin’ fine”.