What's Going on Today: Packing for a night away at a friend's house upstate with daughter's best friend!
Naptime Goals: Prepare Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew - for all of us to eat tonight, then for my husband to eat tomorrow night while we are gone!
Tonight's Menu: Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew, Toasted Pitas, Chocolate Chip Cookies
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Sometimes Dad's need a break, too.
Tomorrow night my daughter and I are heading up to my friend's house in upstate New York for a girls night. My friends two daughters are "bff"with my daughter - at least in their toddler minds - so I am sure everyone will have a screaming good time together. I am even packing an extra set of jammies, a key outfit for any sleepover, just in case that's all we end up wearing the entire time we are there.
The only problem with this scenario is that my husband will be home alone for a night. Sure, I leave him home alone all the time like when we go here, or here, but it is still kind of sad when I do. He misses us and we him, so I like to try to leave him with some good food while I'm away. This time I'm going to whip up a batch of Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew for us to eat tonight - the night before we leave - and for him to have tomorrow night while we are gone. I will also make him a batch of our favorite chocolate chip cookies to have around for snacking after he gets home from work.
My friend Kristina first made this soup for me when she was visiting my in NYC many moons ago. At that point I was still single and living in my studio and she was on break from her Peace Corps duties. When she visited she made this in the morning before she went out sightseeing for the day. Not only was this convenient for her - nothing opens in NYC to see until 10am - but she also did it for taste purposes.
Making this dish ahead of time is ideal for many reasons. Like any good stew, with time the ingredients have a chance to intermingle, adding a great complexity and depth of flavor to it. Of course, not only is this desirable, but it fits perfectly with my agenda of cooking during naptime. I love to put this together in the afternoon while my daughter is asleep. The ingredients are easy to prepare and the assembly straightforward, and it fills the whole apartment with fantastic aromas which linger all afternoon. After I'm done cooking it I simply leave it, covered, on the stove until dinner time. If you happen to make this stew even further ahead of time, like in the morning, just put the whole pot in the fridge until you are ready to reheat and eat it.
Tonight we will eat it with a side of toasted pita wedges. Then, tomorrow, my husband will probably eat it tossed with egg noodles. We'll miss him while we are at our girls' night upstate, but I'll take comfort in knowing that he's been well fed.
Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew
based on a recipe from my friend Kristina
2 T. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 t. curry powder
2 T. fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 t. Kosher salt
2 large sweet potatoes,
1 14oz. can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 c. brown lentils
28 oz. low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1. In a heavy bottom 4 quart saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and gently saute them until tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the ginger, garlic, curry powder and salt. Stir until fragrant and everything is evenly incorporated. About 2 minutes.
3. Carefully, pour in the potatoes, lentils, tomatoes and chicken broth. Raise heat the medium-high and bring stew to a boil. Allow to boil for one minute. Then, reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender enough that they can easily be speared with a fork. While it is simmering feel free to do other things about the house, just be sure to come back and check on it once in a while.
Make-Ahead Tips: Soups and stews are one of the best things to make ahead since, as with this recipe, their flavors improve with time. This stew is a snap to pull together during naptime, or even up to a day before you want to eat it. After the ingredients are fully cooked simply place it in the fridge, covered, until you are ready to re-heat and serve. This will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days, fully cooked.This is also great to eat for a mid-day lunch.
Serving Tips: Whole-wheat pitas cut into wedges are great to enjoying with this stew. I like to toast them until they are almost crispy then use them to scoop up the stew in the bowl. This is also delicious when tossed with egg noodles.
Naptime Stopwatch: 10 minutes for assembly, 45 minutes for simmering
Naptime Reviews: My daughter was initially skeptical, but enjoyed the chunks of sweet potatoes. My husband, not necessarily a vegetarian, loved it and devoured two huge bowls!