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One-Pot Meals to Simplify Holiday Time

When your life is especially busy—like during the holidays—it’s great to have some one-pot meals that are filling and delicious. I recommend this Savory Sweet Potato Soup with English Peas. As you plan different meals for the week your kids return from college or bring their carloads of grandchildren to visit, this hearty soup can make menu planning a lot easier.

Yes, fresh peas in pods are usually a spring item, but I’ve been finding bagged fresh peas at Whole Foods this month, so I picked up some for a change of pace. It’s fun to shell peas, even though it does take extra time!

When I can’t find fresh peas, I use 2 cups of fresh green beans, which also make this a lovely soup. Either way, I add some shiitake mushrooms. Of course, some people don’t like mushrooms because they’re so chewy—my husband included. But he enjoys mushrooms when I mince them in a food processor. If you don’t appreciate the mushrooms’ earthy flavor, you can make the soup without them, because you’ll still find plenty to savor in this dish.

If you crave extra spicy dishes, you can use up to a teaspoon of paprika or even add a chili—though I don’t recommend either for anyone with pitta or vata issues. The heat of paprika and chilies can precipitate or aggravate any number of pitta problems, including headaches, acid indigestion, and skin ailments such as rashes, itching, and acne. And because heating foods are drying, they can also increase vata symptoms from insomnia to joint pain and more!

The flavor of different brands of paprika can vary greatly from quite mild to pungent and hot. For this reason, I find it best to start with a modest amount and add more to taste.

Instead of using tomatoes, which I avoid, I added 3 pieces of kokum to this soup to add another tangy layer to the dish. Kokum is a dried form of wild mangosteen fruit that is often used in Indian cooking. (You’ll see black specs of kokum in the recipe photo after the larger pieces have broken into smaller bits after cooking.) I learned from Vaidya Smita Naram that kokum, although slightly sour, does not increase pitta like tomatoes. I get that you may not want to shop for an unfamiliar ingredient, so you can try a splash of lime instead at the end of the recipe or even drizzle a small amount of balsamic vinegar in the pot before you serve.

Enjoy this Savory Sweet Potato Soup with English Peas to keep warm on these cold nights during this sweet season of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Wishing you and your loved ones safe travels and joyful holidays as you make new memories together.



Preparation time:  45 minutes to 1 hour
Serves 4-6      

Thanks to our friend Libby Gell who taught me the downward dog and warrior yoga poses, and, as a bonus, shared a great recipe with me that inspired this creation.

1 cup freshly shelled peas
(or two cups cut green beans)
1½ cups dry red lentils
1 large leek bulb plus an inch of the light-green shank
2 tablespoons avocado oil or ghee
6 to 8 cups Easy Vegetable Soup Stock
(or 4 cups stock and 2 to 4 cups water)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon paprika
(up to 1 teaspoon, to taste)
1 teaspoon coriander
1 large celery stalk
2 large sweet potatoes
3 pieces kokum (optional)
5 ounces shitake mushrooms
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 garlic clove
2 handfuls of fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon Celtic Sea Salt
lime wedges (optional)

Cook’s Tip: The peas are listed first in case you plan to shell your own. When I can’t find fresh peas, I use 2 cups of fresh green beans, which also make a lovely soup. During the summer, you might enjoy adding some fresh corn off a cob or two.

1. If you wish, shell the peas the night before preparation or just before beginning to cook. Rinse the lentils, strain, and set aside. Rinse the leek, checking for soil between the layers, and slice it into thin slices.

2. Heat the oil or ghee in a 6-quart or larger soup pot on medium heat. Add the leek slices and sauté them until they turn golden. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and coriander. Now add the lentils and 6 cups stock (or 4 cups stock and 2 cups water) to the pot. Stir once and bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the soup is boiling, reduce heat to medium and cover the pot.

3. While the lentils simmer, slice the celery. Peel and chop the potatoes into cubes. Add these vegetables to the soup pot and re-cover. Cook until the lentils are tender, about 15 minutes total. If you’re using green beans instead of peas, rinse and snap them now and then add them to the pot. Put the mushroom stems aside for another use (they’re great in soup stock). Slice the mushroom caps and add them to the pot.

4. Peel and grate the ginger and add it to the soup. Peel and press the garlic into the pot and add the peas. While the peas are getting tender—it takes a minute or two—prepare the fresh herbs, chopping the basil and pulling the thyme leaves off their stems. Add the herbs to the pot along with Bragg’s and salt. If the soup needs more kick for your taste, add more paprika. If you like a thinner soup, add more stock or water. Taste and serve with a splash of lime, if you like.

Ayurvedic Note:  Sweet potato, the dominant theme in this soup, is very calming to vata and pitta, though somewhat aggravating to kapha. Although the peas can aggravate vata, the quantity is small and is balanced by the ginger, garlic, and paprika. Kokum is a home remedy to ameliorate acidity.


Use a minimal amount of paprika or replace with black pepper.

Use ½ to 1 teaspoon paprika to offset the sweet potatoes.

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