By Susan Greeley, MS, RDN
Getting through the long, cold, harsh winter months without a bout of the flu or nagging cold may seem impossible despite downing megadoses of vitamin C and creating a cracked desert on your palms from obsessively slathering on hand sanitizer. By focusing on some “superfoods” and lifestyle basics, however, you’re upping your chances of reaching spring unscathed by illness. That means focusing on a diet rich in nutrients that come from some fresh but basic, inexpensive and readily available foods. (Don’t forget to complement a super diet with plenty of rest, fresh air and exercise as well.)
You may be familiar with the term “superfoods” already, which is “a non-medical term popularized in the media to refer to foods that can have health-promoting properties, such as reducing one’s risk of disease or improving any aspect of physical or emotional health.” (www.medicinenet.com.) The foods deemed “super” have a high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins, or other nutrients.
While there is no defined list, some of my picks include: garlic, onions, fennel, celery, carrots, broccoli, arugula, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, all greens (mustard, beet, turnip, chard, collards and kale to name a few,) fresh herbs, cabbage, sweet potatoes, ginger, green teas, lemons, beets, parsley, avocados, apples (with the skin on!), berries, oranges, grapefruit, melons, grapes, nuts, … the list is potentially endless. The bottom line — it’s easy to get superfoods in your diet, but even easier when you combine several into one delicious, nutritious super soup!
In addition to my favorite lentil soups, here are two new quick and easy recipes to enjoy superfoods and stay healthy all winter long.
Yellow Split Pea & Sweet Potato Stew
by Susan Greeley, MS, RDN Total time 1 hour
As I say, “Legumes for Life!” Dried peas are loaded with fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates and some vitamin A. Combine them with other potent cancer-fighting vegetables, herbs and spices, and you have a phytochemical award-winning creation.
2 cups dry yellow split peas
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups sliced baby portabella mushrooms
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 quart vegetable broth (chicken broth for non-vegetarians)
3 cups water
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tsp. salt (sea salt or other)
1/4 fresh cilantro leaves or Italian parsley (more if desired)
Black pepper to taste
1. Rinse the peas and remove any small stones.
2. Heat olive oil in a large pot, add onion and cook for about 3 minutes.
3. Add split peas, mushrooms, cumin, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
4. Add water, sweet potato chunks, salt, cilantro and a little pepper. Simmer for another 25-30 minutes. Season to taste and serve. Top with a few cilantro leaves to garnish.
Get creative: Flavor combinations for legumes like split peas and lentils are cumin, cilantro, bay leaves, ginger and lemon. There are others, but any of these will always enhance them.
Super Simple Scrumptious Stew!
By Susan Greeley, MS, RDN
Beef is not verboten, particularly when it’s lean and grass-fed. Enjoy it in a stew that combines superfood tomatoes (yes, the paste counts!), fennel, carrots and onion. If you’re feeling creative, add some different vegetables, such as chopped kale or collard greens, or even some white or red beans.
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1-lb pkg stew meat (“organic” or grass-fed beef chunks)
1/4 cup or more flour
1/2 tsp each sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder
2 Tbsp beef bouillon (no MSG) or 1 liter beef broth
1 large fennel bulb, chopped into chunks
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 or 5 large Russet potatoes, paired and chopped into chunks
2 Tbsp tomato paste
6 cups water
Sea salt and black pepper
Fresh herbs to serve
1. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Pat meat dry with paper towels.
2. Pour flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder into a zip loc bag, then add beef chunks. Add beef to pan and cook, stirring to brown on all sides, 5 minutes.
3. Add powdered beef bouillon and 3 cups water or just the beef broth.
4. Add chopped fennel, carrots, potatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves and 6 cups water. Let simmer 1 hour or until all vegetables and beef are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with fresh herbs to serve.