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Winter comfort food with no regrets

November 8, 2009
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This weekend I held a workshop called The Yoga of Food. We were discussing the energy of certain foods and a woman in the group asked about healthy alternatives to eating her favorite comfort food: pasta.

Well, we all love pasta, don’t we? I grew up eating a lot of it in my Italian home. But one of the blessings of my journey to good health was learning how to cook different styles of food. Today I’d like to share with you one of the most comforting dishes I’ve ever made – and possibly one of the healthiest. Chock full of vitamins, protein and fiber, this colorful meal is perfect on a chilly winter day.

As you might recall, I first had this dish at Candle Cafe in NYC. My friend Laura went home and reconstructed the recipe, to which I added my own personal touches. Oh, and did I mention, it’s vegan? Sure is. It’s also incredibly cheap to make – I’m guessing about $7 for the whole thing.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Southern Style Millet Bake
Serves 6. You’ll need a baking dish or casserole dish and a food processor (or a very willing, strong arm and a masher).

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups millet (optional: soak overnight with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar)
5 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Bring water to a boil. Add millet and cook for about 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Stir salt and pepper. Keep stirring the millet somewhat vigorously for at a few minutes. This works the starch out and makes it sticky. Now spoon the millet into the baking dish and smooth it out to create the bottom layer.


For the beans:
4 cups cooked black beans (you can use canned if you want)
4 small cloves of garlic
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Spoon on top of the millet and smooth into second layer.


For the sweet potatoes:
4 sweet potatoes
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. paprika
3/4 tsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. salt

Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Steam until fork tender. Combine everything in food processor and blend until smooth. Spoon over black beans and smooth into top layer.


Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. While it cooks, chiffonade and saute collard greens in a bit of olive oil. Serve sliced and carefully transferred millet bake to a bed of collards and serve. Mmmmmm.

What’s your favorite healthy comfort food for this time of year?

  • simpledaisy

    My favorite winter comfort food is pea soup with pesto and baked sweet potato fries!!! They keep my humming through the cold, dreary winter!!

  • Amy

    I have a couple of favorites. Any kind of hot soup, like lentil soup or a basic vegetable soup, does the trick for me. I’m also a huge fan of steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast, with any combination of nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, brown sugar, and soy milk. Oh, and any baked good, especially muffins, that involve pumpkin are at the top of my to-make list for fall and winter.

  • Erica

    This looks amazing! Thank you for the idea

  • Jennifer

    Yum. That looks incredible — can’t wait to give it a try. Chiffonade??

  • Diane Forsyth

    yummm…can’t wait to make it! Question…in your first post about this recipe it says it was served with a gravy??? Did you disect that as well? Thanks for the great dinner idea!

  • Karen

    THIS would be my favorite healthy comfort food. Next best is chicken, barley and kale soup with a wedge of fresh baked whole grain bread.

  • dailydiner


  • Michelle

    @simpledaisy – pea soup w/ pesto? that sounds great. love pesto!

    @Amy – Pumpkin muffin for sure!

    @Erica – anytime :-)

    @Jennifer – Chiffonade is a technique where you stack the leaves, roll ‘em tight and slice thin. You can do this with basil leaves for a pretty garnish too!

    @Diane – No, and I wish I had! I don’t actually have an easy, vegan gravy. Anyone? Anyone?

    @Karen – you flatter :-)

    @dailydiner – Yum x 2!

  • Emil

    Have you tried quinoa pasta (typically a corn-quinoa blend) as an alternative to regular pasta?

  • Ellen

    I was lucky enough to eat this when Michelle made it – it’s *delicious*. I’m planning to make it as part of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

  • Sweta

    Oooooh-I’d love to try this. Which millet did you use?We use so many (finger millet,pearl,etc)-but it’s either in the form of dosa/roti/porridge. This will be a really different way to use millet.
    You got me thinking about ‘tempering’-we call it ‘tarka/tadka’ in Hindi. I found the exact explanation for it on BBC(oh yes-trust the Brits to know more about Indian cooking ;)-
    “Tempering or tarka refers to the process of frying spices, chillies, garlic or even shallots in hot oil. This flavourful oil is then added to a cooked dish towards the end of the cooking time. Tempering prevents the fresh, aromatic properties of the spices fading in the cooking process, combining both the deep flavours of the dish and the aroma of the freshly fried ingredients.”
    You might want to check out their site “Indian Food made easy”:

  • Hanlie

    I have to try this! It looks delicious! Thanks for sharing it!

  • Alex

    You read my mind, yo.

    I was just saying the other day to my boyfriend that I was in the mood to make a casserole (what 25 year old says that??) and in my head I was thinking that I wanted to use up some of the millet I bought in bulk, some sweet potatoes, some greens, and some protein. Technically your greens are part of the casserole, but DANG, that’s close, eh??

    Thanks for the recipe! I’m obviously going to make this immediately!

  • Alex

    *your greens are NOT part of the casserole

  • Michelle

    @Emil – I haven’t, but I’ve tried brown rice spaghetti and kamut spirals. Sometimes the cooking time is different than regular wheat pasta but generally pretty decent substitutes :-)

    @Sweta – I’m not sure…I only have ever seen 1 kind of millet. It’s whole, not pearled or anything. Thanks for explaining tempering!

    @Hanlie – Enjoy :-)

    @Alex – Obviously! Let me know how it goes!

  • Juliana

    Oh! This look so amazing and so pretty…with this dish who needs meat? :-)

  • Eleanor

    So… I made this for dinner last night, and it turned out great!!

    I made a couple of modifications: I cut the recipe in half and made it in a Corningware casserole (just in case we didn’t like it, I didn’t want to have a huge pan left over). Since the dish was deeper, I baked it for 30 minutes rather than 15. I used Tabasco in the beans rather than cayenne, because that’s what I had on hand. I also added a tablespoon of butter to the millet mixture, because You Need Fat :)

    It was really tasty, and even my husband, who is usually skeptical of vegan dishes, enjoyed it. Thanks for the recipe, Michelle – it’s a keeper!

  • Jennifer

    I made this last night too and it was wonderful! Thanks for the recipe. This is one of my new faves.

  • Sandy

    Hi. If you’re still interested, here’s the vegetarian gravy recipe that I use all the time.
    If you Google vegan or vegetarian gravy you will find lots of recipes, but I can tell you from a couple years of experience that this one is very good – I can’t speak for all the others!
    By the way, I can’t wait to try this recipe – with a few modifications. We don’t like black beans, but it would probably be good with a different kind of bean, right? We also don’t like sweet potatoes, but we could try a different kind of potato too, couldn’t we? I’ll try it and see how it works out – I don’t want to make too many changes and ruin it!

  • Kitty

    This looks and sounds absolutely wonderful. I love black beans, I love sweet potatoes, not sure what millet is?
    This one is going on my menu for next week.

  • Jennifer

    Perfect. comfort. food. This looks deeeelicious!

  • Mary

    I cannot wait to eat this. Did I already post a comment about this. I love the sound of this dish. I wish it was ready in my kitchen right now. I am salivating!!!!!!!

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