Often, “winter” recipes call for ingredients that require a trip to the grocery store. But there is too much coat-zipping, glove-finding and frozen-bike-lock-wrangling to be worth their warmth. Luckily, the days leading up to spring break provide an optimum window of time to do absolutely nothing but clear out your fridge and pantry. This pre-spring cleaning not only gives you an excuse to avoid Whole Foods-induced hypothermia, but it also opens up space in your kitchen that you can fill with spring’s fresh crop of produce when you return from break. Besides, using up kitchen leftovers doesn’t have to yield only bland dishes. This stew is savory and colorful, a testament to the spectrum of flavors that make it full-bodied instead of overly salty or too brothy. But the best part about this stew is that many of the ingredients can be replaced by whatever you have on hand. Cannellini beans can replace kidney beans, spinach can sub for kale, carrots can be swapped for celery. Even the lentils can be replaced by any sturdy grain or bean, such as quinoa or pinto beans. So instead of surviving finals week with countless PB&Js, make a batch of this stew. You can store it in the fridge for up to a week or freeze it for future meals. Just be sure to cool it to room temperature before packing it away.

Advanced Course

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Servings: 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 medium sweet
potatoes, or other variety
1/2 cup green lentils
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or other dried herb
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Leaves from ½ bunch kale or other leafy green
1 can kidney beans, or other variety
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place the chicken breasts on a baking pan. Rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs, salt and pepper in a separate pan.
4. Place the two pans into the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.
5. Let chicken cool, then shred with two forks and set aside.
6. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and carrots and sauté until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.
7. Add cooked potatoes, chicken, lentils, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon dried herbs, salt and pepper and bring everything to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils are mostly cooked, about 20 minutes.
8. Add kale leaves and kidney beans and cook just until kale has wilted, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and serve.