Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lentil and Root Vegetable Stew

Well I’ve started a detox. Not an official detox diet (yet) where you follow a strict regiment and prepare exact recipes as part of a plan crafted by an Ayurvedic counselor, but along the lines of “giving more stuff up.” How is this humanly possible? Crazy lady already chooses not to consume meat, dairy, butter and eggs. What else is there? And if you gave so much up, how could you be putting up a recipe?

Added to my list of “detrimental to your health”: Gluten, refined sugar, alcohol, chocolate, vinegar…oh my! Why are they so bad? I could go into a lengthy explanation, but as I am not a professional and at the risk of sounding preachy, I will resist. Our bodies don’t take well to these substances when they are consumed in the amounts we typically eat. I love bread, wine, and chocolate – who doesn’t? But my stomach and ever more prevalent state of lethargy urged me to recognize the roles of these substances in my overall health. Do I plan to do this together? I’m crazy but I’m not stupid. Please….like I could give up chocolate.

I have however fallen off the healthy bandwagon - eating alarming amounts of potato chips while waiting for a meal to start, dining out and ordering wraps or veggies burgers with highly processed ingredients, drinking lots of red wine, snacking on Trader Joe’s rice snacks or peanut butter filled pretzels when I’m nowhere near hungry, indulging in ice cream more often than an indulgence is typically defined. By most people’s standards, this doesn’t sound too bad. I’m not eating chicken wings with ranch for a late night snack after 6 pints of beer (which I have been known to do more than a few times. But what happens in Madison stays in Madison). Snacking on rice crackers and soy ice cream are fine, right? Yes, but feeling like crap is not.

I’ve also had some long standing issues with food that require attention. For instance, every family picnic, potluck, holiday or birthday party guarantees a 4 hour munch. I can only hold off eating too much hummus and pita at happy hour for so long until my mind changes gears. Then some alter ego invades my mind and tells me to quit being so limiting and the munching cascade ensues. I think this ego is the remains of my persona in college, desperate to revive that stage of eating anything and everything because of my absolute ignorance about nutrition and desire to socialize at events revolving around alcohol. I could late night snack with the pros; a 2 pound steak after 4 gin and tonics couldn’t stop this girl. This alter ego tells me to run it off tomorrow and just cut down on my calories the next day. Not a good way to eat when this happens at Christmas (x2), New Years, Weekly Happy Hour, 1 Year Old Birthday Party, and Picnic in the Park. It’s only February!

So my solution? Detox (or treatment for multiple personality disorder). Flush it out and start over. A detox can help you mentally and physically by ridding your body of toxins, particularly in the liver, and by giving your mind a chance to reach a new sort of clarity that we rarely experience on a daily basis. After reading a lot of literature about detox diets, a good rinse made its way on the menu. Commonly practiced and recommended by many (provided you don’t have some threatening disorder or aren’t pregnant), they are used to cleanse the organs, clear the mind and start anew when you’re feeling heavy and troubled. So how did I approach my detox?

I haven’t followed an official diet, but I plan to someday. After reading about a news anchor that detoxed for 28 days giving up everything listed above, I read the exclusion list and knew I could do it too. It has prevented me from succumbing to late night ice cream, munching on crackers, and pigging out because of some mental hang-up. So here I am 4 days into it and feeling much better. My stomach feels so much better, which makes me want to treat it more nicely. I am learning to enjoy social outings that don’t involve 2 glasses of wine (for me). My mind is carving out thought process that steers me away from overeating. So what did I eat?

I don’t have a juicer or a Vitamix, so I haven’t been living on smoothies and green machine juices recommended by many “flushes.” I also don’t have a dehydrator so I couldn’t go completely raw. This has left me with an abundance of fresh and dried fruit, raw or lightly steamed vegetables, some beans, whole grains (sprouted or cooked), nuts and tea. After the first day of eating only fruit and steamed vegetables with a few almonds and walnuts in there, I craved something for dinner that was warm and filling but light at the same time.

This soup was my answer and it was absolutely fabulous. It was both sweet and savory from the root vegetables and herbs, hearty enough from the lentils, and thick enough by pureeing some of the soup. It felt clean and satisfying with all the protein, fiber and complex carbs. Would have been nice with some flax crackers….but it’ll have to wait until I get that dehydrator.

Lentil and Root Vegetable Stew

Serves: 3-4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour


½ T. Coconut Oil
½ Medium onion, chopped
1 Medium celery stalk, chopped
1 Large garlic clove, minced ~ 2 tsp
1 Bay leaf
½ T. Thyme, dried
1 tsp Marjoram, dried
½ tsp Rosemary, dried
1 tsp Salt
1 c. Sweet potato, cubed
¾ c. Turnips, cubed
¾ c. Parsnips, cubed
¾ c. Lentils (dry), rinsed
2 c. Vegetable broth (made with 1 cube of bouillon)
3-4 c. Water
Black pepper to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)


In a large crock pot, heat coconut oil over medium heat and add onion and celery. Sauté until transparent, ~ 7-8 minutes. Add garlic, herbs, and salt and cook another 30 seconds – 1 minute.

Add sweet potato, turnips, parsnips and lentils. Stir well to completely coat vegetables with seasoning. Add vegetable broth and water, and increase heat to medium high. When soup reaches a boil, turn to medium low, maintaining a vigorous simmer and cook until lentils are done, ~ 30-45 minutes.

When lentils are done and veggies are soft, turn heat off and season with pepper to taste. Transfer 1 cup of soup into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour this back into the soup and puree an additional cup if you’d like a thicker soup. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

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