I find the best way to stay warm during our cold Canadian winter is from the inside out. Warming spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom and pepper, are wonderful ways to spice up your dishes and warm your belly without extra calories, sugar or salt.

A spice that is often overlooked is star anise. Its licorice flavour is often added to sweet desserts and drinks, but it really shines in this savoury winter side dish. You can find star anise whole (shaped like a star) or ground, which is used in this dish. Either way, it adds a depth of flavour that will keep you and your family happy and warm until spring.

Ingredients (Serves 2–4)

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded & minced
  • 1 cup roasted squash or sweet potato, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 3⁄4 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1⁄4– 1⁄2 tsp ground star anise (depending on your taste)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Handful parsley, roughly chopped (optional but pretty)

Directions

  1. If you haven’t roasted your squash or sweet potato yet, do that. Peel it, cut it up and put it in a 400-degree oven for 50 minutes. Done.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté your red onion, carrot and jalapeño in the oil until the onions start to soften. Add one cup of broth, star anise and bay leaf and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed (about 10 minutes).
  3. Add remaining broth and bring to a boil. Take off heat and add green onion, squash and couscous. Gently stir and let sit for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Top with parsley and let your belly sing!

Leftovers are awesome and your coworkers will wonder when you had time to order take- out. This dish will be good in the fridge for about a week.

Seanna Thomas is a holistic nutritional consultant from Toronto.

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