You may have heard over on Instagram that I have given up meat and alcohol for the month of February, and I’m also trying to consume less dairy (i.e. cheese!). This is what I do when I want to eat better, I make restrictions for myself. This may seem counterintuitive. After all, don’t restrictions just end up feeling too limited and, well, restrictive? Well, for me it’s a bit of the opposite. It’s my way of simplifying choices and in a way, putting up boundaries. The less choices I have, the more focused I get. Kinda like when you put up the bumpers when bowling with children. We just can’t veer off into that gutter, you know what I mean?
Why do I give up meat specifically? ‘Cuz when I don’t eat meat, I eat more veggies or legumes or grains and these tend to be healthier foods for me. This dish of Kale and Sweet Potato Lentils illustrates just that. It’s a recipe I cook often for a client of mine whose preferred way of eating is natural foods that are very high in fiber. That also happens to be how I like to eat! So the other day, after cooking it for her, I went home and made another batch for myself to enjoy all week, too!
Lentils are really easy to cook, as I shared in this beet, carrot and feta lentil salad post earlier this year. In today’s recipe, I use red lentils instead of green, which cook much more quickly. That’s the good news. The tricky part is that they can overcook much more quickly too, so it’s important to start checking them after just a few minutes and strain them the minute they feel tender but still with a slight bite. Strain the lentils, then spread them out in an even layer on a clean plate lined with paper towel to help stop the cooking process and soak up any excess moisture. They can hang out while you prepare the rest of the dish.
While the title of this dish gives away two ingredients – sweet potatoes and kale – there are a lot of other contributing flavors here. Equally important are the red onion, jalapeño and garlic which all get caramelized in the pan after browning the sweet potatoes and before adding the kale to wilt. I especially love how all the veggies can cook in the same pan, cuz I very much dislike extra dishes. But I know I am not the only one, can I get an “Amen” on that?
I also enjoy toasting up some almonds, and chopping fresh parsley to add to the final mix before tossing everything together with some olive oil and apple cider vinegar. It’s so simple, it’s ridiculous! And the best part is that it lasts a week and goes great for lunch on the run, or a quick dinner. Another great secret is that I’ve been known to stuff this mix into taco shells and top with a little avocado, hot sauce and lettuce or arugula for a bit more hearty of a meal. I mean, after all that goodness, who even misses the meat?
A veggie packed, fiber-rich side dish or main course, these Kale and Sweet Potato Lentils are a delicious addition to any healthy, weekly meal plan.
1 cup red lentils
2+1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces sweet potatoes, about 2 cups peeled and diced
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1 jalapeno, diced small
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2+1 tablespoons Apple cider vinegar
2 cups kale leaves, sliced thin
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/3 cup almonds, chopped or sliced
2 ounces goat cheese, optional
Fill a medium saucepan with water and set over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, pour in lentils. Cook for 2 minutes then begin testing doneness. Lentils should be tender, but still have a slight bite to them. Once ready, strain.
Spread lentils out in a thin layer on a plate lined with paper towels. Allow to cool.
Heat a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm. Once oil is hot, add diced sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat with oil, then let them sit in the pan for a few minutes to get a good sear. Once browned on one side, lower heat and continue to saute another 3-5 minutes to soften.
Pour 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into the pan of sweet potatoes and cook 2-3 minutes, then add the red onions, garlic and jalapeno. Cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring often until onions are caramelized and sweet potatoes are tender.
Add kale to the sweet potatoes and saute 2-3 minutes longer until kale is wilted, but still bright green. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Place the saute pan back over medium heat. Add almonds and toast for 5-7 minutes until almonds are golden and fragrant. Shake pan often to prevent burning. Transfer to bowl with sweet potato mixture.
Toss lentils into the bowl with the sweet potatoes along with the chopped parsley, and another tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add crumbled goat cheese, if desired.
Serve immediately or refrigerate and enjoy throughout the week.
You can use green lentils in place of red lentils, but they will take longer to cook. Boil for about 12-15 minutes before testing for doneness.