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Cookbook Author Katie Lee Hits the Waves and the Bookshelves

Katie Lee enjoys the waves in Malibu. (Photo courtesy of Katie Lee)

Katie Lee enjoys the waves in Malibu. (Photo courtesy of Katie Lee)

Dinner was the main event in Katie Lee's home as she grew up. Starting at age four, Katie learned to cook from her Grandma Dora and her love of food only grew—she's now the author of two comfort food cookbooks, is The Early Show's contributor on all things food and even hosted the first season of Top Chef.

But when Katie stumbled upon hard times, she decided to take up a new sport: surfing. The experience (she researched while surfing in Mexico) helped to inspire her first novel, Groundswell, which was released today! We spoke with Katie to learn about her new hobby and how she stays so fit while around so many tempting treats.

How did you make the transition from chef to novelist?

I have wanted to write a novel for years, but I never could find the right story to inspire me. I tried so many times, but I always thought the story had to involve food and I just couldn't get it right. I guess writing is kind of like love: If you're looking for it, you'll never find it. It's when you least expect it that it sweeps you off your feet.

What inspired you to begin surfing?

I was going through a rough time in my personal life and wanted to try something completely out of character to "get out of my head." I was always enamored with the ocean, but terrified of it at the same time. One day, I was on the beach watching the surfers and thought I'd give it a shot. I signed up for lessons and went to my local surf camp.

What have you learned about yourself from the sport?

I've never been particularly athletic or good at sports, so I was really surprised that I was able to surf! I'm by no means a great surfer, but I love it and the mind-body connection I experience while surfing. It gave me a new sense of confidence and achievement.

Besides surfing, how do you stay in shape?

I exercise about six days a week. I live to eat, rather than eat to live, so I have to really work out hard! I do Core Fusion, SoulCycle, yoga and run on my treadmill.

Do you watch what you eat?

I do, but don't count calories. I try to eat a mostly plant-based diet, making my plate 70 percent vegetables and 30 percent protein. During the week, I don't eat sugar and save my indulgences for the weekend.

Since we couldn't talk with the Southern food connoisseur without asking for a meal suggestion, click below for one of Katie's favorite crowd-pleasing recipes!

"I do love my comfort foods, so I make healthier versions of my favorites," Katie says. "Growing up, I loved Sloppy Joe night. Now I make a guilt-free lentil and tempeh version that's amazing. I usually serve them with baked sweet potato fries!"

Groundswell is available in bookstores and online today. (Photo courtesy of Katie Lee)

Groundswell is available in bookstores and online today. (Photo courtesy of Katie Lee)

Lentil and Tempeh Sloppy Joes

  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Whole-wheat buns
  • Sliced avocado, pickles

Place lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil until tender, about 30 minutes, and drain.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and red bell pepper and saute until onions are translucent and pepper is tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 1 more minute. Stir in crumbled tempeh and chiles, and cook about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add reserved lentils, BBQ sauce, ketchup, chili powder, sugar, Worcestershire, vinegar, Dijon and 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat to low and let simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on toasted whole-wheat buns, topped with sliced avocado and pickles on the side.