a pretty bowl of lentils

Cars won’t start.  Doors won’t open.  Only a select few of the towns’ runners will be seen traipsing through the snow.  They wave to each other—a moment of mutual respect for the other

It is a cold, cold day here in New England.  Frigid, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, should my fingers be this blue? kind of cold.

I think it’s about time to hug a big bowl of hot, steamy soup.

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I’ve made many types of lentil soups in my life.  Spicy.  Sweet.  Earthy.  Zingy.  Powerful.  Mild.  I have a special place in my heart for each of them, and it’s really no secret at all that I am head over heels in love for the little brown lentil.

And yet, I’ll be the first to admit it. Lentil soup is not much to look at.  Unless, of course, you like the color brown.  Because that is really the only way to describe such a mono colored soup. 

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As I was meandering my way through blogs and recipes, I fell upon this lentil soup from Two Peas and Their Pod.  It most literally popped right up and out of my computer screen.  There were lots of lentils.  Sweet potatoes.  And spinach.  All combining to form a bowl of beauty.  Who knew the lentil had such possibilities? 

Yes.  It’s true.  I was instantaneously sold on the soups’ rustic good looks, hoping that a bright personality would come along too. 

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I quickly realized that there were many ingredients that I did not have on hand for this soup, but the idea of bundling up and making my way to the grocery store was not such a happy one.  Thankfully, I had plenty of good substitutes on hand, all of which worked out really, really well. 

In the end, the soup remained as pretty as the original version.  And its personality was better than even I expected.  So I guess you could say that this recipe is—in a way—fool proof.  Easy to tweak based on what you like (or what you happen to have on hand!)  I think bell peppers would make a nice addition. 😀

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Cold winter days.

Frigid, falling temperatures.

Hugging a bowl of soup. 

Life is good.

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Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes & Spinach—tweaked from the original version as seen on Two Peas and Their Pod

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 small sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
16-oz dry, brown lentils
4 (15 ounce) cans vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 cans (15 ounce) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste
16oz. frozen spinach, dethawed
Tabasco sauce, to taste

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until onion is tender and garlic is light brown in color. Add celery and sweet potatoes. Cook until vegetables soften, about 5-7 minutes.

2. Stir in the lentils, vegetable broth, and water. Add the diced tomatoes, thyme, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook on medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes or until lentils are cooked.

3. Add the fresh spinach and stir. If necessary, season with salt and pepper. Serve hot and ENJOY!

Serves 8-10

Question: Do you often use leftovers for lunch the following day?

counting on lentils

If I’m ever stuck at home during a blizzard, a hail storm, an ice storm, etc, I hope that my pantry is stocked with lentils.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Lentils have saved me more than once.  From snobby joes to lentil salads to curried lentils over rice.  Lentils are there when I need them the most.  They never fail me.  Never.  And unlike other legumes and beans, lentils don’t take hours upon hours to go from pot to plate.  They’re quick, easy, cheap, delicious.

Tonight I was craving a big ol’ bowl of spicy, chunky, lentil tacos, which made me immediately think of my favorite recipe from Runners World.

I found this recipe back when I was training for a half marathon.  I liked the idea of fitting more nutrient packed beans and legumes into my diet.  Even better, I liked the idea that this recipe was supposed to come together in under 30 minutes. 

Step 1: Olive oil, onions, celery, garlic: sizzling on medium until tender and transparent.

Step 2: Add in lentils and seasonings, cooking for 1 minute more.

I have no idea what this “one minute” actually does for your lentil taco, but I’m not one to doubt Runners World or their chefs.  So I continue to cook the lentils, spices, and onion mixture.  For exactly one minute. 

But coming from one busy cook to the next, you truly probably don’t need to. 😉

Step 3: Add in liquid and raisins (!!!)

The raisins scared me the first time around.  I mean, really?  Raisins?? 

But honestly, I wouldn’t skip this step.  I did so once and missed the sweet lil’ addition terribly.  They offset the spiciness of your salsa and the chili powder perfectly, as they soak up all those savory flavors into one plump and juicy (slightly sweet) bite.  It’s a fun addition that I never would have thought of personally, but I am thankful that Runners World did.

Step 4: Cook for about 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.  Add water as needed.  Add salsa.

Go for a nice, spicy salsa.  I’m a big fan of Newman’s Own or Old el Paso. 😀

Voila.  Dinner is served.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that I wanted a big ol’ bowl of lentil tacos for dinner tonight.  Tradition says that you roll them up in a tortilla wrap.  But tonight I opted for the non-traditional route. 

Bowl of lentil taco mixture.  Roasted veggies.  Cheezy quesadilla. 

Lentils once again saved the day.  Saved the dinner.  Quick, easy, cheap, delicious. 

It should be noted that this recipe is as forgiving as they come.  On more than one occasion, I have found myself without onions, celery or salsa.  It’s nothing that a can of diced tomatoes, some ginger, balsamic vinegar, and/or some random veggies can’t take care of. 

Also, I know the title of “lentil taco” causes you to envision—well—an actual taco, but there’s no need to stop there.  Lentils should never be limited.  I’ve put this stuff over rice and green leafy salads.  I’ve melted cheese over the top and called it a dip for my kashi crackers.  I’ve eaten it cold, I’ve eaten it hot.  I’ve eaten it every which way.  Your imagination is really and truly the only limit.

Lentil Tacos
as seen on RunnersWorld.com (with some tweaking)

  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup brown lentils, dry
  • 1-2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons dried black currants or raisins, minced
  • 1 cup salsa, plus additional for topping
  • 8 6-inch whole wheat flour tortillas

    In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauted onions, celery, and garlic in the olive oil for five minutes or until vegetables are soft. Stir in the lentils, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook for one minute. Add the broth and raisins. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (add more water or broth as needed…I usually add in another 1-2 c. of liquid or so). Remove the lid and cook an additional 10 minutes (until lentils are thick), stirring often. Fold in the salsa. Wrap the tortillas in a damp white cotton towel and microwave on high for one minute. Spoon the lentil mixture among the tortillas. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese if desired.

Question: If you were ever to find yourself stuck home without access to a grocery store, which item would you hope to have in your pantry?

mind over matter

Good Morning!!

I woke up nice and early so that I could tackle the ever growing to-do list.  Most of which entailed homework, homework and homework.  And a run of course.  😀

 

I made the same batch of oatmeal that I had yesterday.  When something tastes amazing, I need to have it at least twice before moving on.  Maybe three. 

What is it about polka dots that make it nearly impossible not to smile???

 

Morning Snack: Pink Lady with a scoop of Trader Joe’s Almond Butter

 

 I can’t figure out if today’s run was challenging or easy.  My legs felt fresh and energetic—almost floaty!  But my mind was not cooperating.  I kept repeating the mantra: mind over matter.  It seemed to pull me through the tough hills and the summer heat, but I was still not feeling it mentally.  I’m used to stopping my run based on knee pain, but lately I’ve been wanting to stop due to my lack of endurance.  It’s such a strange feeling!

Lunch

Mixed greens.  Chickpeas.  Green Olives.  Half a cooked sweet potato.  Leftover green & wax beans.

+ olive oil and balsamic vinegar

I ate the greens on the green.  😉  Eating outdoors is one of summer’s many treats.

 

 + more green in the form of Green and Black.

Not the chocolate’s fat “bloom” (cocoa butter goes to the surface of the chocolate, turning it gray as it recrystallizes) after going through many heat changes.  It’s one of the many random facts that I held on to after taking my Food Service Class.  Thankfully, the bloom doesn’t change the flavor.  Still as delicious as ever. 😀

 

 Afternoon Snack: 6-oz. plain yogurt + 2 T. crushed flax + Natures Path Pumpkin Flax Granola + Almond Butter

 

Lentils.  They’ve saved me before, and they’ve saved me again.  I can always count on lentils. 

There’s always a bag sitting in the back of my pantry for emergency purposes.  It’s one of those staples that I have a connection with.  You know, one of those ingredients that just works with whatever ingredient I decide to throw it together with.  Everything from salsa to spinach to feta cheese and cranberries.  Lentils never let me down.

Tonight’s recipe was no exception.

 

 If you love curries, lentils or spicy food in general, you’ll enjoy this dish.  Best of all, it works with the ingredients that you probably already have on hand.  And as much as I hate to say it, you could probably even sub in garbanzo beans for the lentils.  This dish is as versatile as you need it to be!

Curried Lentils in Tomato Sauce(recipe idea from Martha Stewart Living)

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • heavy hand of ground ginger (or fresh)
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more if desired)
  • 1-14oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-14oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1-8oz. can of tomato paste
  • 2 cans (20 oz. each) cooked lentils, rinsed and drained (I cook my own rather than using canned, but either way works fine!)
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • cooked brown rice for serving
  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium.  Add onion and ginger.  Cook until beginning to brown, 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add spices; cook for one more minute.
  3. Add tomato products, lentils and 1 c. water.  Simmer until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir in lime juice.
  4. Serve over rice.  Garnish with cilantro if desired.

I added shaved parmesan on top of mine, and served with roasted broccoli on the side.

Off to water the flower garden!  I remained productive today which was good, but I’m such a zombie right now.  Hopefully a little fresh air will help. 😉

Question: Do you have any staples that you always keep stocked up in your pantry?  I can always count on there being a bag of lentils (or canned beans), pasta, and diced tomatoes.  You can do a lot with these three simple ingredients. 😀

oh so snobby

I don’t think I was thinking clearly this morning.  Why else would this breakfast not include peanut butter?  I was in the middle of washing dishes this morning when the thought occurred to me, “Sarah, you forgot to add peanut butter to your morning meal.”  After that, there was no going back.  And, alas, I found myself craving peanut butter.  All. Day. Long.

Isn’t it amazing how addicting penaut butter can be? 😉

Breakfast was still delicious though.

  • 6-oz. plain yogurt mixed with 2 T. crushed flax
  • 1-1/2 c. Kashi Heart to Heart
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 c. blueberries

This is the last of the blueberries until picking season starts!

Morning Snack: first peach of the season!!!

I can’t decide what’s harder: (a) going out for a run with zero motivation but still feeling physically strong or (b) having 100% motivation along with a pair of lead legs.  I think I’d vote for (b). 

This morning, my heart and brain were completely in the game.  I was ready to run.  I envisioned myself leaping and sprinting down the road with a huge smile spread clear across my face.  Three miles, four.  Maybe even five.  Who knows how far I might end up?  But after a mile or so into my run, my legs decided to speak up too.  “You know what?  We don’t feel like doing 3, 4 or five miles today.  Let’s just stop right here.  Like…now.”

Somehow I managed to get the heart, the brain and the legs to meet on middle ground, as I pounded (kind of literally) out 4 miles.  My knees felt fine, but the rest of my legs—shins, calves, etc.—were not quite feeling it today.  Even so, I felt deliciously happy upon my return.  I couldn’t ask of anything more than to be outside and running. 

Lunch

Sardines are just one of those foods that I like to include into my regular diet.  At least once or twice a week.  Are you tired of me telling you all about how cheap, tasty and full of omega-3’s they are?  Not to mention the protein.  I’m sure you are, by this point.  And I would promise that this would be the last time for me to ever mention it, but I simply can’t, because I’ll probably forget and mention it again by next week. 😉

Today I made a simple salad and topped it with black olives, feta cheese, 1 tsp olive oil, a can of water packed sardines, and onions.  I used the kashis for dunking. 😀

Afternoon Snack: 6-oz. plain yogurt, 1/2 banana, and a scoop of that delicious dark chocolate peanut butter that I was craving since this morning :mrgreen:

Dinner

One of the things I love most about being the family cook for my very open-minded parents and I is that I can open up a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook one night, a meat-lover’s recipe guide the other, and my Veganomicon cookbook the next.  I never cease to count my blessings.  My parents aren’t afraid to experiment, as they eat their way through countless flops, experiments and successes.  I absolutely love that they’re so open to trying anything and everything. 😀

My family has many vegetarian favorites (along with some meat favorites too, of course) and these Veganomicon Snobby Joes are just one of the many on the list.  The bread is crusty, the filling is sloppy, and it all makes for one deliciously satisfying meal.  This is such a great recipe, and I always–always, always–double the batch.  It freezes well, and goes great over salads or in wraps as a change of pace.  Oh, and I always serve it with some sort of vegetable on the side.  Roasted cauliflower and onions (baked at 425 with 2 tsp olive oil for 25 minutes) was the choice of the day, but this goes great with a cool, crisp side salad too (especially now, in the summer.)

Veganomicon Snobby Joes—I changed the directions a bit to make it quicker and more convenient 😉

  • 1 c. uncooked lentils
  • 4 c. water
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T. chile powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 c. tomato paste
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1 T. yellow mustard
  • sandwich or kaiser rolls or buns (preferrably whole wheat)
  1. Pour lentils and water into small saucepan; bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and saute the onion, garlic and pepper for about 7 minutes in 1 T. oil, until softened. 
  3. Stir in cooked lentils, chile powder, oregano, salt, tomato sauce, tomato past, maple syrup and mustard.  Heat thorough.

I like to toast the rolls under the broiler and eat it open faced.  It’s less messy that way, but if you prefer to go all out, then eat it as a sandwich and enjoy the messiness!  Snobby joes are meant to be enjoyed. 😀

Question: Sloppy Joes/Slobby Joes…do you enjoy either variety?  I love them both, but honestly, I’m more of a Slobby Joe fan (and not just because I love the name :mrgreen: ).

Fear in the Kitchen

If Sloppy Joe and Miss Reuben were to meet, fall in love, get married and have children, this vegetarian sandwich would result.

It was actually more of a spin on the snobby joe, as there was a small dish of lentil taco filling left in the fridge to be used.  I didn’t have the heart to dump it, so it quickly found its way onto some trader joe’s whole wheat sourdough bread.  Then I got carried away and added sauerkraut, a slice of provolone cheese and some lettuce greens before grilling into perfection.

Sometimes, my friends, it’s okay to get carried away. 

A while back—as in, a little over 6 months ago—Greensbury Market sent me some of their organic, grass-fed beef to be sampled and reviewed.  They also sent me some chicken, which was consumed with gusto and excitement.  That’s because I am not afraid of poultry.  I am, however, afraid of red meat.

There, I said it.  And I’ll say it again: I’m afraid of red meat.

It’s not because I have an aversion to handling raw meat.  It’s not the flavor, the texture, the feel.  Rather, I have a fear of tough, flavorless meat that has been cooked beyond repair.  To the point where no sauce or gravy could ever hope to cover up the obvious.  It explains why this block of top sirloin steak (which, by the way, is a lean choice of red meat) has been sitting in my freezer for months, out of sight and mind.  Until tonight.  Tonight, I took out my sharpest knives, my finest pan, and every bit of my confidence that I could possibly muster up.  I was determined to produce a soft and tender peice of beef, and I figured that slow-cooking it might help me out in this department!

Slow Cooker Pepper Steaktaken from MJWAGNER68 on allrecipes.com (with some tweaking to cut down on fat, calories and sodium)

  • 2 lb. top sirloin steak, cut into 2-inch strip
  • garlic powder to taste
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 tsp refrigerated beef broth substitute (or 1 cube of beef bouillion…just be sure to check the ingredients.  if you can’t read it, put it back on the shelf! 😉 )
  • 1/4 c. hot water
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 large green bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes with liquid
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  1. Sprinkle strips of sirloin with garlic powder to taste..  In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and brown the seasoned beef strips.  Transfer to a slow cooker.
  2. Mix beef broth with hot water until dissolved.  Mix in cornstarch until dissolved.  Pour into slow cooker with meat.  Stir in onion, green peppers, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, and sugar.
  3. Cover, cook on high for 3-4 hrs or low for 6-8 hrs.

Note: Serve in wrap, over rice, over noodles, etc.  I added some broccoli to my bowl of brown rice for a filling and satisfying dinner. 😀

The verdict: There was no 5-minute chewing involved with this meat.  It was as tender as meat can get.  Soft, flavorful, delicate.  It practically melted as soon as it hit my tongue.  I won’t jump out on a limb and say that I’m now fearless of red meat.  But this was a major confidence booster. 😉

On that note, I am off to relax with an episode of Jillian Michaels, a good book, and some Celtics basketball mingled in.

G’night!

Question: What is your biggest fear in the kitchen?

schedules and productivity

Rain storms are beautiful.  And so is the sun that comes out the next morning, working hard to help dry things up.  I honestly can’t decide which I like more.

This morning I had plans.  Plans to walk 4-miles with mom.  Plans to cut the entire lawn.  Plans to work on some internship homework.  Plans to be productive!!!

First things first…

  • 1/2 c. oatmeal
  • 2 T. wheat bran
  • 1 banana, smashed
  • 6-oz. plain, nonfat dannon yogurt
  • toppings: 1 T. Galaxy Granola Very Vanilla, 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 T. Teddy peanut butter 

I’ve been loving this combo lately.  It’s very much like overnight oats, only there’s no soaking period.  This results in chewier oats which I love. 

mid-morning snack: grapefruit and almonds

It was a little strange having a set schedule for myself today.  Not too long ago, I was an undergraduate nutrition major who lived on a very tight schedule.  But this past month has been the most laid-back, free-flowing month since…well…probably since being a high school student! 

But not today.  Today I was organized.  Determined.  Productive. 

Lawn mowed?  Check!  4-mile walk with mom?  Check!  Internship homework?  Check!  Sometimes it feels good to have a planned schedule. 😀 

Time for lunch!

  • mixed greens
  • carrot, diced
  • tomato, diced
  • leftover sauteed summer squash and zucchini
  • can of sardines
  • feta cheese
  • 1/4 avocado, diced
  • splash of balsamic vinegar and orange juice

+ kashi crackers!

I’ve been attempting to eat sardines at least once a week, but haven’t actually had them in a while now.  I forgot how yummy they can be on top of a salad!   

My internship homework is actually quite enjoyable right now, I’ve got to say.  The material is really interesting, and it’s all the stuff that applies directly to what I’ll be doing as a future RD.  Fun! 😀 

p.s. my afternoon snack was the same granola bar recipe that’s under the recipe page, except I used chopped dates, added in some coconut, and replaced the flax with chia seeds…a very yummy combo!

If you’re currently on the fence about roasting vegetables, I’m begging you to give it a try.  I promise that it will make you rethink many vegetables.  And, aside from helping to retain many of the nutrients, roasting also brings out a whole new flavor dimension.  Brussels sprouts become crispy and buttery with just a touch of salt and oil.  Squash becomes soft, velvety, caramelized.  Kale becomes light and crisp. 

Cauliflower becomes sweet and earthy. 

One cauliflower with one onion and two teaspoons of olive oil on a cookie sheet, sprinkled with salt & paprika, and baked for 25 minutes at 425.  Does it get any simpler?  This poor cauliflower didn’t even have a chance on the dinner table.  It was quickly demolished by three hungry diners. 😉

Also on the menu for tonight was the last of the Runners World lentil taco’s, which I took out from the freezer last night.  It reheats well, and makes for a quick dinner.  I topped mine with lettuce, chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of feta cheese. 

I have been on a role with reading lately, and I’m just starting a new book by the creator of Orangette, entitled “A Homemade Life.”  If the first two pages are any indicator of how the rest of the book will be, I’m in for a real treat. 😀

Question: Do you like to keep a strict schedule, a loose schedule, or do you like to plan as you go?  I like to keep a strict schedule when school is in full swing, but I’m more of a loose schedule kind of person.  I like to think that plans can change at a seconds notice if I need them to.  It keeps life interesting and flexible. 😀