When buying food on a budget, I tend to stray from buying foods that are too recipe-specific. This forces me to be extra creative in combining familiar ingredients for the meals I concoct on the spot.
On particular days where I’m missing that PERFECT ingredient in my pantry, this can be definitely disappointing to my taste buds. On other days – new combinations result in pure artistry.
I’d say today was one of those days.
With a fridge freshly stocked to sustain me for the last week and a half of this semester, I felt almost overjoyed at the amount of vegetables I had purchased. I purposefully chose veggies that reminded me of fall cuisine – as well as a bouquet of colors, textures, and flavors. I was ready to get choppin’ when I realized this would be my first recipe share – and to tell you the truth, it kinda psyched me out. I was constantly having to bring myself back to that moment, rather than follow the seductive thoughts of camera angles, measurements, fonts, and phrasing. (And having to press repeat on “All I Want For Christmas is You.”)
I gave it my best shot. Here’s what I got for you: gourmet college girl grub.
Cinnamon-Spicy Fall Vegetables with Red Lentils
•1 cup butternut squash, chopped
•1 carrot (about 3/4 cup chopped)
•1/4 zucchini, sliced
•1/4 summer squash, sliced
•6 asparagus spears, chopped into 1 inch pieces
•1/8 rutabaga (about 1/2 cup sliced thinly into pieces)
•1/2 small beet (1/2 cup sliced thinly into pieces)
•4 large cauliflower florets, chopped
•1/3 sweet potato (1 cup chopped)
•bunch of kale (4-5 leaves)
•1/4 white onion
•3 cloves garlic, minced
•2-3 tablespoons olive oil (or grapeseed oil)
•1 1/2 – 2 cups red lentils, *pre-cooked
•allspice, cinnamon, parsley, paprika, salt & pepper
(*I’ve realized this is a synonym for “I didn’t feel like spelling this process out for you.” to foodies.
I’ve fallen subject to euphemism!)
Start by gathering your vegetables and chopping them into small pieces. With this many vegetables, it’s okay to work with awkward amounts (1/8, 1/3, 1/4). You’ll waste less food and create more consistency. (I decided to nix the parsnips – they tend to take over, don’t they?)
Fill a large pot with an inch or two of water and place it over high heat. Using a steamer, cook your vegetables (omitting the garlic and onion) until you can pierce the sweet potato or rutabaga with a fork. This usually takes around ten-fifteen minutes.
In the meantime, place a large pan with two-three tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and stir-fry for a minute or two. Then, add the onion and cook until translucent. I like to add a little salt when I add the onions to carmelize them. One of my roommates bought some pink Himalayan salt I’ve been playing with lately.
Now, you can add your pre-cooked red lentils to the pan. I seldom measure out my spices – but toss in a pinch or two each of allspice, cinnamon, parsley, and pepper. Don’t be shy with the paprika. It’s magic red dust.
As soon as your steamed vegetables are easily pierce-able, transfer them to the pan with the lentils. This is where a bigger pan comes in handy. Drizzle a generous amount of balsamic vinegar over the mix – a few tablespoons should do the trick. Add another pinch of allspice, parsley, paprika, and pepper to coat the vegetables. Taste it – if you like it sweeter, add more cinnamon. If you like things spicy, add red pepper flakes like I did.
There’s really nothing more comforting than this smell. It is such a gorgeous combination of sweet and smoky! Reminds me of Moroccan dishes with the cinnamon.
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Allowing myself some stillness after bopping around the kitchen all afternoon, I sat and indulged in the fragrances and warmth of this meal. It’s so important to spend a minute with your food before you dig in, no matter how hungry you are – not to mention staying present and having intention during the cooking process. It infuses your food with love and elicits a much more beneficial effect on your digestion than a meal made in a hurry/distressed state of mind.
Allow yourself the time to experience each bite in a new way. Each new crunch, sweetness, spice, and flavor – Revel in the gift that is food, and be grateful for the ability to sustain your life with good nutrition!
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My newest tattoo – this raspberry – represents the spiritual meaning of “plenty.” If you’re cooking for one, experiment with using smaller amounts – this avoids the awkward leftover, and forces you to make more conscious decisions. Determine what “plenty” means to you – and cook in a way that brings joy to not only your tummy, but your spirit as well.
Looking forward to more recipes. Nom-aste!