Healthful comfort food: Spiced lentil and quinoa stew


Spiced Lentil and Quinoa Stew. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post/Tableware courtesy of Crate and Barrel)
December 17, 2013

Chilly winter days call for comfort food. But you don’t have to make a creamy, fatty dish to get that stick-to-your-ribs feeling. A hot bowl of hearty stew is comforting, filling and a great way to pack in a lot of nutrition into one bowl.

This dish offers a complete meal with muscle-building protein from lentils and quinoa, nutrients from root vegetables and plenty of flavor from a medley of spices.

The ingredients not only complement each other beautifully in flavor and texture, but they also assist in nutrient absorption. Lentils and quinoa are plant-based sources of iron, which is more easily absorbed when paired with foods rich in Vitamin C, such as sweet potatoes and carrots. Boosting iron absorption is key for those who do not get enough on a daily basis; when iron levels are low, you can feel fatigued or weak.

Lentils are the star here, offering a hearty, chewy texture while thickening the stew. In fact, because lentils absorb water, they continue to expand in your stomach, keeping you feeling full. This recipe calls for red lentils, which are a bit sweeter and nuttier than other varieties.

Lentils are an inexpensive and healthful protein source; one serving (a quarter-cup raw) provides 13 grams of protein and is free of saturated fat and cholesterol. Plus, unlike meat, lentils are high in dietary fiber, which aids in digestion. They’re also a good source of potassium and folate.

Quinoa adds more protein and fiber. It boasts superb nutritional content, including important minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc and iron.

Sweet potato, carrots and spices round out the dish. Sweet potatoes offer more nutrients than typical white potatoes. They are high in vitamins A and C, rich in heart-healthy Vitamin E and a good source of potassium and dietary fiber. They’re also easy to keep on hand throughout their winter peak season, as they can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to five weeks. The carrot is a year-round root vegetable that is low in calories and a good source of vitamins A and C.

This stew features a medley of spices without being “spicy.” It contains garlic, curry, cumin, turmeric, ginger and allspice. Experiment with other spice blends that suit your taste buds. What is key is using spices rather than a ton of extra salt to enhance the flavor of the stew. When seasoning, I like to add spices gradually, tasting and adjusting as needed.

With a yield of eight to 10 servings, this is a recipe you can make once and enjoy again and again. In fact, if you serve it over rice or quinoa, you can stretch it even further. Not only does it keep well in the refrigerator for three to four days, but the flavor intensifies over time. There’s never been a better case for leftovers.

Recipe: Spiced Lentil and Quinoa Stew

Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is creator of the healthful recipe site EatingbyElaine.com. Find her on Twitter at @EatingbyElaine.

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