For most normal cooks, inspiration can come from just about anywhere…a restaurant, a cookbook, even a book club.  But one of the consequences of being a journalist who cooks is that, occasionally, I end up “cooking the news.”

And, in 2011, as the pro-democracy movement that became known as the Arab Spring swept through North Africa and the Middle East, I ended up in the kitchen (along with Wolf Blitzer) skinny-fying a traditional dish of the region that’s now a family favorite:  Kale, Chard and Chickpea Stew with Lamb over Clever Couscous.

It’s a dish that not only celebrates the rich tastes of Tunisia, it’s also rich with disease fighting and energy boosting nutrition. Already known to be a great weight loss food, chickpeas are loaded with protein, fiber and iron and–like the other fresh ingredients in this dish like sweet potatoeszucchinionionschili peppers, the amazing kalechard and the super powered cooked tomatoes –they provide unique antioxidants that are proven to help fight heart disease and cancer.

And grass fed lamb, compared to factory farmed beef, is considered by many to be a much healthier choice when choosing a red meat…

With recent studies showing it to have fewer trans fats and more omega 3’s than other meat sources.

And even the spices in this stew are good for you!

A natural digestive aid, cumin seeds also have a bit of iron and, according to recent studies, may provide some cancer protection. And research of coriander shows this flavorful seed of cilantro can help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. Even caraway seeds contain nutrients, minerals and antioxidants.

And rather than serving this stew over traditional couscous (which is not a whole grain but a semolina pasta of limited nutritional value), we’re using whole wheat couscous which, when mixed 50/50 with cooked cauliflower rice, is very clever indeed…with half the calories of couscous alone and loaded with even more antioxidants and tummy filling fiber!

But even though this hearty stew is heavy in nutrition and flavor, because it abides by The Skinny Truth of “Eat More Things That Grow and Fewer Things That Walk,”–with the proportion of veg to meat turned upside down–it’s still light, with just 75 calories a cup!

Which means you can now enjoy 2 cups of stew over a 100 calorie cup of clever couscous for only 250 calories!

So this spring, let this skinny dish help you lose weight and celebrate your own freedom…from diets! Forever!

I think Wolf Blitzer would be proud.


This recipe makes a large pot of stew–about 12 two-cup servings–so you can feed your family one week and freeze the rest to feed them another meal later in the month. (If you’re a single, feel free to cut it in half.)  To make this stew vegetarian, simply omit the lamb and use vegetable broth rather than beef broth…it will still be hearty and delicious!

1 extra large onion, diced

1 large fennel bulb, cored and diced

2 cups lamb meat cut from 2 bone in lamb sirloins or chops (Reserve bones to cook with the stew for added flavor.)

2 Serrano chili peppers, minced (If you want less heat, use just one.)

2-3 T garlic, minced

1 T cumin seeds, crushed

1 T coriander seeds, crushed

1 T caraway seeds, crushed (If you don’t have a trusty mortar and pestle, put all the seeds in a baggie and bash them with a meat mallet to crack them a bit.)

1 t kosher salt (you can add more later if broth and tomatoes aren’t salty enough)

1 cinnamon stick

1 medium red skinned sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) with juice

12 cups vegetable or beef broth or a mixture of the two (I always prefer Better Than Bouillon paste so I can control concentration of flavor.)

4 c zucchini (about 2 medium) chopped

4 c sliced frozen okra (a one pound bag)

1 small bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped (about 4 cups)

1 small bunch chard, stems removed, leaves chopped (about 4 cups)

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

1 handful fresh mint, chopped fine

Non-fat yogurt (optional)

Toasted pepitas (squash seeds), sunflower seeds, or pine nuts (optional)

Chop all of your vegetables before you begin and dice the lamb as well, saving any bones to add flavor to the broth.

Heat a large non stick soup pot (I prefer an enameled type) sprayed with cooking oil  and saute the chopped onion, fennel and lamb (as well as the lamb bones) until meat is just browned on the outside.

Toss in the garlic, Serrano chili peppers, cumin, coriander and caraway seeds, salt cinnamon stick, sweet potato and bell pepper and saute for a few minutes more so that the garlic and spices can warm up and begin to release their aromas and flavors and all of vegetables are nicely coated with the seasonings and the wee bit of fat from the lamb meat.

Pour in the juice from the canned tomatoes to deglaze the pan…using a wooden spoon to scrape any tasty bits from the bottom of the pot.

Add the tomatoes, the chickpeas (and the liquid they’re packed in), and the zucchini and stir…then pour in the broth and cook over medium low for 30 minutes.

Add in all of the frozen okra and half of the kale and chard and cook 10 minutes more. (Adding the greens in two batches will allow some greens to completely collapse and become silky, while those added later will retain more body and color.)

Add in the rest of the kale and chard, along with the green onions and the cilantro and cook another 5 minutes.

Taste for seasonings, adding in more salt if necessary.


1 medium head cauliflower, chopped

1 box whole wheat couscous

1 t salt

Drop the cauliflower pieces through the feeding tube of a food processor fitted with a “grating” disc .

Place in a microwave safe bowl and sprinkle with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Do NOT add water.  Cover with a plate and microwave on high for 6-8 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave.

While the cauliflower cooks, place your couscous in a bowl, sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and add the amount of boiling water called for on package directions. (Most packages call for boiling water on the stove in a pot and pouring couscous in, but this works just as well and is a little easier to clean up.)

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand for 5 minutes until all of the water is absorbed.

Fluff with a fork and mix with the cooked cauliflower rice. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt if necessary.


Place 1 cup of couscous into each bowl and top with 2 cups of stew and a pinch of finely chopped mint.  To add extra flavor and texture, add a dollop of creamy non-fat yogurt and just a sprinkle (a teaspoon per bowl) of toasted nuts for extra crunch.


In Tunisia, couscous is traditionally served beneath a stew like this but, since I always prefer eating a whole grain rather than a processed pasta, I often serve this with Brilliant Bulgur. (Okay, I may be addicted to alliteration, don’t judge.)

A high fiber, whole grain wheat food, bulgur is a staple in Mediterranean diets and, like couscous, it’s a snap to prepare.  Just pour 1 and 3/4 c boiling water over 1 cup bulgur mixed with a teaspoon of salt and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, as the bulgur sits, make your cauliflower rice. By the time cauliflower is ready, your bulgur will be done.

Fluff each with a fork and then mix them together and fluff again..

Voila! All the satisfaction but half the calories!


If you already have Magic Brown Rice in the freezer, you can always use that instead of the couscous or the bulgur!

Just pop the frozen rice out of the baggies and plop it into a microwave safe bowl…

Microwave it on high, uncovered, for 4 to 5 minutes and fluff with a fork…Instant gratification!!


Remember, making sure you have inventory is key to weight loss success.  If you have any of the Clever Couscous, Brilliant Bulgur, or Tunisian Stew left.. Freeze it!! You will be thrilled to have your own fast foods at your fingertips later in the week or in the month!

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