I’d like to introduce you to our friend Gena. Some of you may remember her writing a post on A Couple Cooks a few years ago called 5 Tips for Balanced Eating. It started like this: “My name is Gena. I’m a food blogger, a vegan cookbook author, a nutritionist, and an RD-to-be. I’m also recovering from thirteen years of on-again, off-again anorexia and orthorexia.”
Powerful words. In the years since then, Gena Hamshaw has become a dear friend. She’s the face behind the food blog The Full Helping, and author of three vegan cookbooks. At the same time, she works as a nutrition counselor and is completing her master of science degree in nutrition and education. (Talk about rockstar!) I admire so many things about Gena: her ability to excel in so many things, her generous spirit, and her grit to persevere through professional and personal trials. But one of the things I admire most: her fearlessness and vulnerability to speak out about important topics to help others heal. Gena’s courage to talk about issues with food in a gentle and constructive way has touched the lives of thousands of people across the world. In the post she wrote for our site, she went to to say:
“Usually I say that I’m ‘recovered,’ not recovering. In a lot of ways, this is true: I’ve been weight-restored and physically healthy for many years now. I no longer engage in disordered eating patterns, I don’t have “fear foods,” and I don’t use restriction or dietary manipulation as a means of trying to exert control over my life. I love food—it’s probably my greatest passion—and I love to eat. But I couldn’t help but think that the word “recovered” may be a little too neat and tidy to describe the before-and-after of eating disorders. In a lot of ways, we’re always recovering from the struggle—even if recovery takes us to places where we feel more freedom and pleasure and peace than ever before. Part of embracing the ongoing journey of recovery, I think, is understanding that balance doesn’t just happen—it demands effort and consciousness, at least for some of us.”
When Gena and I met, I was struggling with my own issues of viewing food in a healthy way and understanding balance. Many times in the evenings I’d find myself raiding the pantry for anything made of sugar, stuffing myself and then falling into a cycle of guilt and shame. In Gena I found a champion of the cause of balanced eating: eating where food is both a source of pleasure and a source of nourishment, indulging when it feels right, and eating until you’re satisfied but not beyond the point of comfort.
What a pleasure it is today to share a recipe from Gena’s NEW cookbook, Power Plates: 100 Nutritionally Balanced, One-Dish Vegan Meals! The concept of this book is unlike any other I’ve seen and I’m very excited about the concept! Every recipe contains the key macronutrients of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and proteins, which together make for a complete meal in one dish. So, you don’t need to worry about cooking up any side dishes or snacks: these recipes are complete meals altogether. This speaks right to Alex and my sweet spot of pretty simple cooking, since most nights it’s all we can do to make one main dish recipe. Gena’s book makes sure that each recipe is nutritionally balanced on its own.
Of course we would pick a recipe with sweet potatoes…and these Moroccan sweet potatoes are exceptional! The sweet potatoes are topped with lentils mixed with cumin seeds, harissa, and veggies, then smothered in a creamy lemon tahini sauce brings it all together. The vibrant sweet potatoes against the savory spiced lentils are the perfect match: drop-dead delicious! This recipe is similar in style to things that Alex and I make on the regular, and we loved this new take on one of our favorite vegetables.
Another lovely thing about this cookbook is that it was photographed by our dear friend, Ashley McLaughlin. We couldn’t be happier to get our hands on the fantastic work of two of our very favorite people. Congratulations, Gena, on an incredible book: we know it will be dog-eared for years to come.
PS Exciting news: Gena and I will be co-hosting a cooking demo event in late February in NYC to share Power Plates and Pretty Simple Cooking with you! Stay tuned for more.
Order the book! > Power Plates: 100 Nutritionally Balanced, One-Dish Vegan Meals by Gena Hamshaw
Did you make this recipe?
If you make these Moroccan sweet potatoes with tahini dressing, we’d love to hear how it turned out. Leave a comment below or share a picture on Instagram and mention @acouplecooks and @thefullhelping.
This recipe is…
Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and sugar-free.
Moroccan Sweet Potatoes
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- 1 cup (200 g) dried brown or pardina lentils, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (14.5-oz, or 411-g) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 tablespoon finely grated or minced fresh ginger, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon harissa paste, or 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups (120 g) firmly packed baby spinach
- Water, as needed
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (optional)
- 1⁄2 cup (125 ml) Everyday Lemon Tahini Dressing (see recipe below)
- Optional: Chopped fresh parsley, chopped fresh cilantro, snipped fresh chives or chopped scallions
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the sweet potatoes on the lined baking sheet and prick each several times with a fork. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until fork-tender.
- Meanwhile, cook the lentils as directed on page 15. Drain well.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the seeds start to pop. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Decrease the heat to low and stir in the lentils, ginger, cinnamon, paprika, harissa, and salt, then stir in the spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach has wilted, adding water by the 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) if needed to prevent sticking. Stir in the pomegranate molasses. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
- Cut each sweet potato in half and use a fork to coarsely mash the flesh, still in the skin. Place two halves on each serving plate and top them with a generous scoop of the lentils. Serve right away, with a drizzle of the tahini dressing and the optional fresh herbs.
Reprinted with permission from Power Plates, copyright © 2018 by Gena Hamshaw. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Everyday Lemon Tahini Dressing
- 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) warm water, plus more if desired
- 1⁄4 cup (60 g) tahini (or more, see note)
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1⁄2 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk until evenly blended. If the dressing is thicker than you’d like, whisk in water by the tablespoonful to achieve the desired consistency. **Note: We had to add several more dollops of tahini to get the sauce to come together, as our tahini was fairly loose. The exact quantities will depend on the brand of tahini.
- Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the dressing will keep for 1 week.