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I can’t believe how chilly it has been in NYC the last week or two.  It’s supposed to be spring and all we are getting now is rainy weather with temperatures in the mid to high 50’s.  What I want to be eating is big bowls of raw greens and fruits, however, the weather will not cooperate.  I find it hard to indulge in raw foods the way that I want to when my body is cold.  So I settled for making some great stews!

My hubby made a visit to a Bangladeshi market in Queens, NYC the other day and came home with a beautiful bag of spinach.

Is this Bengalee spinach? Leave a comment and let me know...

It has a slightly lighter green color than the traditional spinach leaves I am used to seeing here in the US.  These leaves also seem to be fully grown, however they have the texture of baby spinach.  The stems are thick like kale or collard leaves.  When you cut them they ooze a little bit of a slimy juice, something like okra.  I did a little google research and I believe this variety of spinach is called Bengali spinach.  Bengal is more popularly known (at least to Americans anyway…) as Bangladesh, a country located to the east of India.  If you know more about this spinach, please let me know if I am correct in my research by leaving a comment below.

I decided to make two fairly easy stews to compensate for this chilly spring weather.  It features Bengalee and Indian spices like mustard seeds, curry powder, and garam masala.  I insist on having quality spices when making my meals; McCormick simply will not do.  I bought many of my Indian spices from an Indian spice shop in the Bowery in Manhattan (I will have to do a full blog post on the store as it is amazing).  The freshness of the spices is something you will not find in your average grocery store.

Today’s stews are completely vegan and can be adjusted to suit your tastes.  If you do not have Bengalee spinach, feel free to use another variety or another type of greens altogether.  I also used Korean sweet potatoes — a starchy, white potato with a thick red skin.  These happen to be my favorite.  You can use another variety of sweet potato or plain white potatoes if that works for you.

The final product: Bengalee inspired lentil stew with sweet potato and spinach.

Sweet Potato and Spinach Stew

1 large sweet potato, chopped into 1/2″ chunks

2 cups spinach, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion, sliced

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Boil chopped sweet potatoes until tender — roughly 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from boiling water and let it drain.
  2. Heat a pan with olive oil.  When the pan is hot, add mustard seeds, onions, and garlic.  When the mixture is fragrant, add sweet potatoes.  Mix thoroughly.
  3. Add spinach.  Stir until spinach is fully wilted and all ingredients are fully incorporated.  Add cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste.


For the lentil stew, I am using green lentils.  This variety has a lot more body when cooked than a red lentil which tends to lose its shape when heated.  Please use dry lentils rather than canned lentils as this makes a huge difference in the taste.

Green Lentil Stew

1 cup dry, green lentils

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion, sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 cups water (or vegetable stock)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 tablespoon curry powder

salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a 2.5 quart pot, heat the olive oil.  When hot, add onion and garlic.
  2. When the onions are soft and fragrant, add the lentils and cover with water OR stock.
  3. Add remaining spices and stir thoroughly.  Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Stir occasionally to make sure it does not burn on the bottom.  If it becomes too thick, add more liquid.  Once the lentils are tender, taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

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