Baked sweet potato with lentils and feta

Is there such a thing as virtuous food? Let me muse a bit. This morning I had oatmeal with raisins and walnuts and just a touch of brown sugar. It was delicious. I felt good eating it, it tasted good, and I felt good afterward. For lunch I heated leftover black beans, roasted butternut squash, and I made a tomato sandwich to accompany it. I was excited about it because it tasted good, filled me up, and felt good afterward. I even felt, dare I say, virtuous.

On the other hand, yesterday I had a little square of chewy date walnut cookie before noon. I ate it quickly, irreverently, and a little guiltily (it was not a dessert day). Later on, I discovered some highly processed chocolate toffee caramels in the bowels of my kitchen. I had a couple. Then a couple more. Oh, just a few more, why not. I did not feel happy eating them. They tasted good, but not wonderful. My gut did not feel happy later either.

Are sweets evil, and beans and legumes holy? Are homemade sweets less evil than processed sweets? How does the spectrum of "good" food vs. "bad" food line up with "virtuous" and "evil"?

Some other musings. When I notice someone buying a lot of "bad" foods at the grocery store, such as soda, chips, t.v. dinners, etc., I judge. I do. It's wrong of me, but the judgmental part of mind moves more quickly sometimes than the I-should-know-better part. The thing is, I have plenty of foods that I think are just great, but other people might look down upon them (carbs! butter! full-fat yogurt!). And there are foods I may snub my nose at that other people think are healthy decisions (diet soda? low-fat? 100 calorie snacks?).

I don't exactly have a conclusion for these ramblings, but in the end, food is primarily meant to keep us alive. Second, it is meant to nourish (this is where the virtuous/bad debate begins). And third, it delights and comforts us. At least we can all agree on the first tenant (i.e., we live on food).

I included a decidedly virtuous (and delicious!) recipe at the end for lentils with sweet potato, feta, and pepitas. It is a perfect fall dish. Meanwhile, see what else has been cooking in my kitchen:

- Essential Raised Waffles (subbed 1/2 cup of my natural yeast starter for the dry yeast)
- Tea for the especially virtuous
- I really like this ho-hum ingredient baked this way
- Sipping this (hot or iced)
- Chewy Date Walnut Bars (So good. But could maybe use 1/2 cup of brown sugar instead of the full cup, and they would still be so good.)

Autumn Lentil Dish

In college, I had a housemate who, when we were eating lentils, said "Aw. Be lentil." I thought it was so funny, and imagined little lentils being gentle. Now I think of this whenever I eat lentils.This recipe is very a la 101 Cookbooks, in my mind. I used an herb butter that I had made last year and froze, with lemon zest and chopped parsley. If you don't have something similar, you can just use regular butter, squeeze some lemon juice on top, and finish with fresh parsley. Serves 2. 

1) Bake two smallish sweet potatoes. Scrub, prick with fork, wrap in foil, and bake for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

2) Meanwhile, cook lentils. I like French lentils. Measure 1 cup of dry lentils, rinse, and combine with 2 cups of water in a pot. Add salt, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes until tender but not mushy.

3) Spread the lentils on two plates and place a sweet potato on each. Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise and fluff a little with a fork. Put a generous pat of lemon parsley butter inside (or butter, with a squeeze of lemon and chopped parsley). Sprinkle everything liberally with feta, pepper, a bit of salt, and pepita seeds. (If you plan to eat this later, sprinkle the pepita seeds on right before you eat it so they don't get mushy).

Enjoy! Hope you're having a great week.