The Comfort of Good Food - Lentil Soup and Carrot Cake

The Comfort of Good Food – Lentil Soup and Carrot Cake

After a recent weekend of teaching classes and non-stop planning, cooking, and shopping in preparation therefor, I found myself completely uninspired on the cooking front. Maybe it was the let down of completing a big project and the need for my mind to take a break. . . luckily it only lasted a few days. And luckily a neighbor stopped by with Madhur Jaffrey’s tome World Vegetarian during the middle of my slump.

A quick side note about neighbors. As I have always found, people like to talk about cooking and food and eating.  We all eat and we all feel strongly about some aspect of that piece of our lives and whether it’s my neighbors or new facebook friends or folks commenting on my blog or my relatives or long-lost high-school friends, everybody has something to say about food. Every walk through the neighborhood ends up in conversations about a new discovery of how to make nut-butters; whether a focaccia recipe will turn out well as a regular loaf and if yeast quantities should be adjusted; a discussion about whether one prefers thick or thin asparagus; or about why children eat three servings of lentil soup one day and refuse it the next. Such walks and conversations pull me right out of any, temporary funk!

Now back to cookbooks and recipes. Just browsing Jaffrey’s enormous book made me smile and want to spend all day cooking again. I have not managed to make anything out of  it yet  but did order it and look forward to incorporating her recipes in many of  my classes. Now to the things that I did make and that were immensely satisfying:

I made both of these dishes this week (an unseasonably cold-week!)  for the first time and both have been added to the favorite/go-to list. And they are both from the same book Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair, though I made some changes to both.

French Lentil and Potato Stew

–Adapted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

1 Tbs olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 tsp ground cumin

t tsp ground coriander

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/8 tsp cayenne (or more if you like spice)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tsp salt (omit if you’re using salted stock or bouillon)

black pepper

3 medium potatoes, cubed

1 stalk celery, diced

1 carrot, chopped

1 1/4 cups French green lentils (or regular brown ones if that’s what you have)

5 cups water or veggie or chicken stock (use homemade veggie bouillon if you have it)

1 bunch chard or spinach (collards, kale, beet greens. .. ) washed and chopped

squeeze or two of lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a 4-quart pot on medium to medium-high  heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until softened. Add all spices and saute a few more minutes.

Add potatoes, lentils and water (or stock/bouillon). Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 45 – 55 minutes until the lentils are almost creamy. About 10 minutes (or less for spinach) before the lentils are done add the greens. Taste for salt and adjust to your taste. Finish with a squeeze or two of lemon juice. If you have Greek yogurt or sour cream on hand, garnish each bowl with a dollop.

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

–Adapted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

I turned to this book for dessert ideas that are on the healthier side of things. I bake so much and love sweets and I figure I should temper all the sweet stuff with this kind of cake that uses honey and whole wheat flour. I expected it to be much less decadent than it was. I just ate twice as much of it, knowing how healthy it was. Oh the mind games!


1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup honey

2 eggs

1 generous cup grated carrot (I grated half the carrots on the biggest holes on my box grater and half on the smaller ones – liked the combo)

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/3 cup currants

1/3 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped (regular raisins would be fine too) and if you like nuts in your carrot cake, by all means add some chopped walnuts or whatever you have

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly oil and dust with flour a 9-inch cake pan. Mix flour, salt, baking soda and spices in a mixing bowl; set aside.

Melt butter and honey over low heat. add eggs and lemon juice and whisk together. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix well.

Fold carrots, zest, currants, and raisins. Pour batter in pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. be careful not to over bake.


6 oz cream cheeses

1/4 cup (4 Tbs) of butter, room temperature

2-3 Tbs maple syrup

1/2 tsp lemon juice

Cream the butter and cream cheese together with a wooden spoon. Add maple syrup and lemon juice. Add more of either to taste. The frosting will firm up in the fridge if it gets to soft to spread but mine worked just fine.

Frost top and sides of cake!

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