Lentils…failure to fabulous

Last night I was scrounging around in my refrigerator and pantry for a dinner idea.  I had already done a fair amount of exercise mentally and physically and so I didn’t feel like doing something very rigorous in the kitchen.  Plus, I was feeling like there was a lack of inspiration in my pantry.  I finally decided upon lentils and rice.

Lentils are cheap, tasty and very versatile.  It turned out great even though I thought for a couple of minutes I had a failure on my hands.  Sometimes it is hard to believe I can think there is nothing to eat when my shelves have lots of ingredients on them.  According to the Global Poverty Facts, around 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day.  My guess, they would easily find many, many meals in my house.  There are times when I don’t appreciate how fortunate I am.

Well, last night there was high drama in the kitchen.  I was intently listening to Boucci, although now for the life of me I cannot recall what he was talking about, when tragedy struck.  I dumped 2 cups of the water I was pouring in for the rice into the lentil pot that really only needed cooking time, NOT more water for the creamy concoction I was anticipating.  After an expletive and doing a bit of crying internally, I was able to deal with my failure.  Among the reasons I love cooking is due to the fact that greater than 95% of the time, I really enjoy the results plus it makes others around me happy.  I like to please people plus I’m a bit of a hedonist especially when it comes to food.   I can’t think of too many things I must do on a daily basis that provide me this much control and pleasure over the outcome.

I ended up turning my soupy mess into a delicious meal by simmering it for an extra 30 minutes and throwing in some extra spices.  For lunch today, I think it was even better.

Here is my recipe – multiple versions to choose from

1 large onion – chopped

3 carrots – chopped

3 celery stalks chopped

6 cloves of garlic minced

3 teaspoons curry powder (if adding 2 cups of extra liquid include an extra 1/2 teaspoon of coriander, cumin and 2 cubes of a decent veggie bouillon)

2 cups of dried lentils

5-7 cups of water, your choice

1 can of coconut milk

1 can of diced tomatoes – I used fire roasted which added depth and flavor

olive oil

salt

1.  Saute onion for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add the carrots and celery and continue to saute for another minute or two.  Then add spices and garlic and toss until fragrant – about a minute.

2.  Add lentils and water

3.  Depending on the amount of water you use, simmer for 30 to 60 minutes.

4.  Add coconut milk and tomatoes for the last 10 minutes

5.  Taste and adjust flavor with salt

If you want a soup add an additional cup of water to thin.  If you want a more creamy sauce use 5 cups of water. 7 cups of water with the 60 minutes of cook time yielded a saucy mixture that was great over rice.  Overnight it thickened even more.  See what I’m talking about with them being versatile?

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Dinner Pronto

Breaking news!  I’m so excited.  I went for a walk tonight after 6 p.m. without a headlamp.  Ye-haw!  Okay, I’m not usually one for using ye-haw in a conversation but the extended daylight and a good dose of sunshine to boot really pleased me.  Snow is in the forecast tomorrow and it is calling for single digits…but still March 1st goes down as being sublime.

When you have one of those days when dinner is running late or you want to stay outside until your stomach rumbles, here is something I like to toss on the table when I need dinner pronto.

Gnocci or in this case it was Gnocchetti, are little balls of potato (sort of like mashed potato dumplings) that cook in just a couple of minutes.  I kid you not, they cook in 2-3 minutes tops.  They float to the top of boiling water when they are cooked.  They come vacuum packed so they keep well in your pantry.  When I shop in a city, I pick up a pack or two as back-up for those nights when I need a meal but time is of the essence.  Pair them with your favorite sauce, a loaf of good crusty bread

and a salad

and you will have happy dinner companions.  In my book, this is also a company worthy dinner.  This gets a multiple fork rating from me because of the easy and quick preparation and the tasty little potato balls are filling and delicious.  I don’t know if it due to my excessive hunger when filling my plate but this is one of the few meals I usually overestimate my portion size and end up having to package up my portion for lunch.  In general, I like voluptuous servings and eat my plate clean sometimes to the point of my tummy pressing on my lungs 🙂  Have I mentioned I love to eat?

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Baked Falafel

With Egypt in the news so much these past weeks, it had my brain thinking about some of my favorite Egyptian foods.  Falafel fritters are one of my favorite foods especially when they are fried up by someone else.  However, given that I live in an area where I can’t run down to a street vendor or a restaurant, I was left to my own devices.   I decided to try out a non-traditional and healthier preparation method by baking rather than frying.   These delicious little burger balls were much lighter but I will say that fried falafel still holds a special place in my heart.  With the condiments I added to my wrap such as sprouts, tomatoes, pickles and tahini sauce, I will say they contributed to the tastiness of the dish and it would be difficult for me to dislike anything with all of those goodies in it.  Here is how I created my heart healthy falafel:

1 can of chickpeas rinsed well

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 onion finely minced

2 cloves of garlic

1 handful of fresh parsley chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

About 2-3 tablespoons of all purpose flour (you may need a little more/less to get your mixture to combine)

1. Preheat oven to 425

2. Pulse chickpeas in a food processor until they are in coarse pieces.  Pulse to combine the other ingredients.  You may need to add a bit of water or adjust the flour to get the mixture to come together.

3.  Place patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 20 minutes flipping halfway through.  They should be lightly golden.

4.  Assemble in a wrap or pita with your favorite additions.  Some of my favorites are sprouts or lettuce, pickles, tahini sauce, hot sauce and tomatoes. The tahini-yogurt sauce I made is definitely a keeper and it really adds to the deliciousness of the falafel.

Combine 1 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup tahini, 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt and hot sauce to taste.

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Sunny Days Salad

Is anyone else feeling giddy about the lengthening days?  We are getting sunny days again which makes me happy.  The ice and wind abated enough for a beautiful beach walk last night.  The other night I was inspired by my sunny day and the fact that strawberries were on sale.  Thus the Sunny Day Salad was born.  Eating well is all about making good choices.  I really feel like I am treating myself when I have a salad like this but it is also healthy and satisfying.  Eating well isn’t hard when there is seriously tasty and appealing food available.

*My version of this salad uses organic strawberries.  This is absolutely one fruit I won’t touch unless it is organic.  Strawberries are like little sponges and I like to think of them as being packed with vitamins and minerals instead of nasty chemicals.  Ingredients:

Spinach & Mixed baby greens

Toasted Walnuts (350 degrees for 5 minutes)

Sliced Strawberries

Balsamic Vinagrette

I hope you have an enjoyable, sunny day!

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Asian Noodles

When I am able to go to a large supermarket such as “Meijers”, one of the items I often buy is these fresh Japanese noodles.  They take only 3 minutes to cook and absorb flavors very well.  The noodles are incredibly versatile.  You can chop, saute and sprinkle nearly any veggie with soy sauce/tamari to go with the noodles.  You can customize the dish to the season or ingredients you like.  The following is a rendition I recently created.

First, I sauteed up a bunch of mushrooms – a carton of shitake (about 10) and 8 oz of mini Portobello mushrooms that happened to be on sale.  Oh la la – check out the steam!

For heft to my dish, I fried up some tofu and sprinkled it with tamari.Next,  I chopped and sauteed the carrots and little cabbage I had gotten at the indoor organic market.  Someone stored these well because they still had a lot of flavor!

Then I chopped & added this beautiful baby bok choy that sang out “spring is coming” to me in the store.  It only needed about 2 minutes in the hot pan.

Meanwhile, boil your noodles and dress with a soy sauce & a teaspoon or two of dark sesame oil.  If you like some heat, add some chili sauce such as Sriracha or red pepper flakes.  You can also keep the oiled noodles warm in the oven covered w/ aluminum foil.

Give everything a toss or two together in a warm pan and serve it up!

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Simple Breakfast

On my morning mile walk with the dogs, the snow was squeaky due to the cold twelve degree temperature.  I stopped in my tracks at one point because it sounded like someone was chopping wood close to my trail.  It turned out to be a woodpecker.  As I stood there listening, I could hear at least three woodpeckers in various directions.  The sharp cracking sound led to thoughts of eggs being included for my breakfast.  We currently are loaded up on eggs thanks to my parents and I had some leftover pasta from a night or two ago lingering in the refrigerator.  From those ingredients and inspiration, my breakfast was born.

Pasta omelets are a great way to fuel up quickly and have energy for hours.  If  you have leftover veggies, you can lightly cook/saute them and throw them in as well.  They are great with any leftover sauce or just on their own.  I did a 50-50 combo, sauce & plain this morning and enjoyed every bite.

The ingredients are simple:  You need eggs and pasta.  I find that about 1 cup of pasta and 2 eggs provides about the proper balance of egg to pasta.

1.  Put your pasta in a bowl and crack the eggs

2.  Mix it together with some salt and pepper if you desire.

3.  Place in a pan with a little butter or oil and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side.

4.  Serve plain or with sauce and enjoy!

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Scrumptious Salad


I came across a bottle of dressing in our pantry that I had bought this fall and had set aside for a special night.  It is made locally in Northern Michigan and is fantastic.  It is a product of Sisson’s Main Street.  The people  that created this dressing formerly ran the the Leelanau Country Inn.  The Inn has been given numerous outstanding reviews and has been noted many times in articles.  Sisson’s Main Street makes specialty products such as this dressing.  All of their products are made from scratch and are “all natural”.  It is the best French dressing I’ve ever tasted.  Now that I’ve tried this dressing, I’m going to be on the look out for more of their products.  Their website for ordering was down when I checked earlier today but it does feature descriptions of several other products.

Here is how I made a scrumptious salad which made Boucci say WOW!

Mixed baby greens

crumbled blue cheese

sliced apple

sliced almonds

Leelanau Country Inn Authentic French Dressing

With a regular bottled French dressing, the salad would probably score 6-7 on my scale of 0-10 (10 being awesome).  The salad concoction with this dressing, I give 10 forks!

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