Healthy tidings of comfort and joy

Feb. 04, 2014 @ 11:03 AM

There are a couple of food buzzwords that I think are ridiculous. One is “sexy”.   Antonio Banderas is sexy. A plate of risotto is not. Black suede, thigh-high boots with a 4 inch heel are sexy. A well-cooked, medium-rare steak, while beautiful and delicious, is not sexy.
The other word so over-used that it means almost nothing, is “superfood.”
Unless there’s a can of radioactive peas somewhere that can bite you and impart superpowers, superfood is nothing more than marketing hype.
When the weather is as crummy as it’s been, comfort food is on my mind.  Something hot and unctuous, flavorful and filling.
But according to all the bottles of vitamins and diet aides lining the entrance to Costco, this is also the time of year that we’re supposed to eat right and exercise, to get our bods ready for bathing suit season.
So, to fill both requirements, I’ve got three recipes that are perfect for a cold winter night.  When you wake up in the morning though, you’ll feel virtuous and healthy, not guilty and loagie.

Brown Rice and Field Peas

1/2 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 ½ cups brown rice
3 cups veggie stock (you can also use chicken stock or water)
1-15.8 oz. can field peas with snaps
Salt and pepper

Into a saucepan, heat olive oil, season onion with a small sprinkling of salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and lightly golden.  Put rice and stock into pan with onions.  Drain and rinse peas.  Pour into saucepan.  Stir in ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low, cover and cook for 45 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Let sit covered for 15 minutes.  Fluff with fork and serve.
Serves 3 as a main.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

3 sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt (I use Goya Adobo orange)

Preheat oven to 450.  Cut unpeeled, washed sweet potatoes into ¼ inch planks, then slice planks into ¼ inch fries.  Place into bowl, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with seasoned salt.  Gently toss to coat.
Place on parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes, then flip and bake for 10 more. 
Serves 4-5.

She’s Super Freekeh

Freekeh is an ancient grain from the Middle East.  It’s wheat which is harvested green, and then set on fire to toast. It’s chewy and nutty, with a slight smoky flavor. It’s extremely high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. You can purchase it in bulk at Whole Foods, and many other grocers are beginning to carry it. The last bag I bought, I picked up at Harris Teeter. Whole freekeh takes 45 minutes to cook, while cracked freekeh takes only 15-20.
Nutritional yeast is a flavoring made from inactive yeast. It is a complete protein, meaning it has all the necessary amino acids. It has a cheesy flavor that many vegans use in place of Parmesan on pasta and rice. The Kid is wild about it on popcorn. Many grocers carry it in their health food sections.
1 cup whole freekeh
3 cups mushroom or veggie stock
1 bay leaf
1 ½ tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 broccoli crowns
8 cloves garlic, peeled
½ lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan put freekeh, stock, and bay leaf.  Stir in ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, then bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and cook for 45 minutes. 
Preheat oven to 450.  Cut broccoli into florets and place into a bag with garlic cloves.  Whisk lemon juice, mustard and olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper until emulsified. Pour over broccoli and garlic, seal bag and mix thoroughly.  Let marinate until the freekeh has 20 minutes left, then roast veg for 20 minutes on a sheet pan.
When the freekeh is finished, sprinkle with nutritional yeast, then toss in roasted veggies.
Serve hot or cold.  Serves 3-4 as a main.
These dishes won’t give you X-ray vision, the power of telekinesis, or make you the world’s best archer, but they’re good for you and will satisfy, both body and soul.
Thanks for your time.

Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is