Survive winter with these cozy and hearty recipes

Boost morale and lift your spirits with healthy and hearty at-home cooking.
Savory oatmeal from Surya Cafe
Photo courtesy of Surya Cafe / Meagan Lombaer
You may have had it topped with brown sugar and cinnamon, but what about vegetables and herbs on your oatmeal?

Meagan Lombaer, chef at Surya Cafe, is the queen of both healthy and hearty food. Lombaer’s work at Surya largely revolves around plant-based and gluten-free dishes, but she never compromises taste in the pursuit of nutrition.

In discussing the importance of eating warm, wholesome meals to sustain our bodies and taste buds come wintertime, Lombaer shared a few of her favorite indulgent (and ingeniously good for you) recipes for folks to try themselves. A savory rice, lentil and mung bean porridge carries a hefty punch and can be topped with about anything. Quick pickles take the stress out of pickling fruits and veggies, and tamari toasted cashews are the perfect snack or garnish. Lombaer tells us how to curate the richest stock of our home kitchen dreams, which can serve as a base for soup, substitute for cooking oil, midday pick-me-up and more.

The following recipes were created and compiled by Meagan Lombaer.

Savory Rice and Lentil/Mung Bean Porridge

Makes about 10 servings, perfect for freezing leftovers. Defrost before reheating.

Chef’s note: Savory Porridge is my satisfying go-to meal that can be enjoyed at any time of day. This version is gluten free, can be loaded with important nutrients and topped with sautéed or roast veggies to add to the nutritional value-added quality that many sweet-style porridge options are incapable of. I make this at home all of the time in the pressure cooker or as a one pot meal, and have an array of toppings on standby to switch it up throughout the week. It is a cozy meal to eat in the middle of winter, and tastes like home.


  • 2 cups hulled mung beans (or “mung daal” which can be acquired at most Asian grocers in town), or red lentils will also work here. Rinse thoroughly.
  • 2 cups rice and/or gluten-free quick cooking grain of choice. Lombaer uses buckwheat, black rice and basmati split three ways to equal 2 cups, no need to be exact. See notes for other suggestions. Rinse until water runs clear.
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (see notes below or use store-bought 2 quart size boxes)
  • 1/2 tablespoons Himalayan sea salt (any salt will do, but the amount you use may vary according to taste. If you are unsure, use a hefty pinch and then taste it after it is cooked and add more if necessary)
  • 1 tablespoon oil (Lombaer suggests grapeseed oil)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed or coriander
  • One-half teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of ground allspice, cardamom or nutmeg
  • 12 ounces can coconut milk, or 12 ounces milk of choice
  • Optional: 1 cored and diced apple, 1 medium sweet potato peeled and diced, a small butternut squash peeled, seeded and diced, or a mixture of roast vegetables.


  • In the base of a pressure cooker or 4-quart pot, add the rinsed rice and lentils. Add the stock and salt. In a small frying pan on medium heat add the tablespoon of oil and the whole spices. Wait until you hear/see the seeds pop and smell the aroma of toasted spices, add the powdered spices until fragrant and remove from heat dumping into your pressure cooker to hear a satisfying ‘tsss’ sound. If you are on the stove top, you can do this step first and add the grains/lentils, liquid and salt second. Add the optional ingredients of choice and cover setting the pressure cooker to the “porridge” setting. If using stove top, cover and bring mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 40 minutes stirring frequently making sure to scrape the bottom to avoid sticking and burning.
  • To serve, add some of the remaining stock or some milk to desired consistency and spoon into a wide bowl. Add any toppings of choice, sky’s the limit. Use a combo of fresh and roast seasonal veggies, kimchi and or pickles/sauerkraut, fresh herbs, dried/fresh fruits, toasted nuts/seeds, cheese, fried or boiled egg, ghee, meat, butter. Your creativity and any restrictions you have are your only limits.

Mix it up: You could use brown rice, short or long grain white rice, gluten-free oats, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, millet, or teff instead of lentils or mung beans. Just keep in mind that oats and rice will provide a more creamy porridge consistency, whereas millet, teff, sorghum, quinoa or amaranth should be used more as a highlight and nutrition boost, but not as the only grain.

Top it with veggies: Roughly chop two medium onions, two carrots, a pound of button mushrooms, and two celery ribs. Rub with 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard and stick in a 350 to 375 degree oven until the veggies are brown, nearly burnt but not quite. Put the veggies in a pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Add two bay leaves, 6 to 8 peppercorns, and parsley stems, or fresh/dry thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Strain through a bowl strainer and use as directed above!

Get the good stuff in: Top your porridge with a hearty scoop of coconut oil or ghee. The use of ghee is even thought to provide a spiritual element to healing when used as a catalyst for medicine. The flavor is awesome, so it really takes the porridge up a notch. It increases bioavailability of nutrients, adds saturated fat, helps keep blood sugar low, and may be good for those who are dairy intolerant but also appreciate butter.

Tamari Toasted Cashews

Makes 1.5 quarts


  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon oil of choice
  • One-fourth cup of Tamari or soy sauce if gluten is not a problem for you
  • 1 tablespoon of tahini
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons or so of rice flour, cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of garlic powder

Instructions: Make a paste out of the above ingredients and evenly coat a quart of cashews whole or pieces, spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes at a time at 350 to 375 degrees — you may need to use an even higher setting to get the right effect on a conventional oven — until the nuts themselves appear to be toasted. Cook for approximately 30 minutes, stirring after each 10 minutes to avoid burning.

Quick Pickles, general fruits and vegetables


  • 1 to 1 ratio of vinegar of choice and water
  • Sugar of choice
  • Kosher salt
  • Spices
  • Optional: onion, garlic, hot peppers


  • Slice vegetables (or fruit) thinly. Avoid using starchy vegetables or fruit. Place in a heat proof container. Make the pickling liquid by bringing 1 part vinegar, 1 part water and whole spices to a boil. Start with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of salt. As these dissolve, taste a small amount and then adjust the salt and sugar based on your taste preferences.
    • For watery vegetables such as cucumber, you want the mixture to taste a bit too salty on its own.
    • For something like cauliflower florets, soak the florets in ice water as you bring the pickling liquid to a boil, and then drain and add pickling liquid to maintain crunch. The liquid should taste flavor-balanced before you pour it over the drained cauliflower.
  • Being that the liquid will be warm, being on the salty side is fine because once the pickles are cold, it is more difficult to taste salt and thus it will taste balanced.

Making a Rich Vegetable Stock

Chef’s note: Try using stock in place of water to bring more flavor when cooking. Sip on warm stock with a bit of mineral salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime for a nutritious and hydrating boost throughout the day. Use it in soups and stews, instead of oil when sautéing for lower fat cooking … the uses for stock are pretty endless.

Method 1: Simple/fresh technique
Makes about 1.5 to 2 quarts of stock (multiply ingredients to yield more stock if you plan to freeze it for later use)


  • 1 pound of your mushrooms of choice
  • 1 large onion with clean skin
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 to 8 peppercorns
  • 1 small bunch of parsley stems
  • 1.5 to 2 quarts of filtered water
  • Optional add-ins: 2 garlic cloves, 1 sheet kombu, one-fourth cup of dulse, other seaweed (but not nori as it is roasted)
  • Want to substitute? Sub green peppers or poblanos for the carrots and mushrooms, and add a couple of jalapeños and a pinch of chili flakes for a creole style. Just be sure to discard the stems and seeds of peppers when preparing veggies.

Instructions: Wash vegetables and roughly chop them, keeping the skins and stem portions, and add all to a 1 gallon pot (larger for multiple batches). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Strain the liquid through a bowl strainer or chinois, if you have one. If you have no strainer, you can use two oven mitts and the lid to pour the liquid into a container carefully without getting pieces of vegetables. Depending on what you are making with the stock, it might not matter if there are a few pieces of onion or other vegetables!

Method 2: Roasted
Also makes about 1.5 to 2 quarts of stock

Ingredients: same as above, in addition to the following add ons…

  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons or less of dijon mustard
  • Drizzle of maple syrup or honey
  • Deglaze with liquor or wine
  • Natural nut butter of your choice
  • Miso paste
  • Spices and oil

Instructions: Roughly chop clean vegetables, keeping the stems and skins, and coat them with one or two of the above add ons. Roast on a baking sheet for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, or until golden brown. Next, follow the instructions for simple/fresh stock above.

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