Lentil Dip with Curry, Apples & Coconut

This recipe was inspired by flipping through the Moosewood cookbook that I checked out from the library and it instantly caught my eye – Lentils? Yes, please! Curry? Yes! Garam Masala? Yes yes yes. Coconut milk? Hmmm… Haven’t tried that yet. I am intrigued. (That was my inner dialogue as I read through the book, aka talking to my self).

Apparently, this dip can be healthy if you use reduced-fat coconut milk or apple juice. I wanted to use coconut milk because I’ve never cooked with it but all I could find was the regular, full fat version. I used Thai Kitchen, as it was recommended and doesn’t have preservatives.

This is Curried Lentil Dip, Not a Moldy BroccoliCurried Lentil Dip

Adapted from the Moosewood Cooks recipe.

Time: 30 min
Servings: makes 4 cups of dip

Ingredients

1 cup red lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp vegetable oil or EVOO
1 cup diced onions
1 3/4 cups peeled, cored and diced apples
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp curry powder
2 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup reduced-fat coconut milk (or apple juice, or yogurt)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt to taste

Special Tools: food processor or blender

What To Do

Heat the water and lentils in a medium sized pot until the water boils.

Red Lentils

Then, simmer the lentils for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are mushy and the water is absorbed. They will look like this:

Lentils Mushy Mush

Meanwhile, saute the chopped onions, apples and garlic in the oil in a pan on medium heat for 5-6 minutes.

The apple never falls far from the tree....

Those are the chopped apples.

Measure out your curry and garam masala…

Curry & Garam Masala

Apple-Onion-Curry-Garam Masala

And stir them into the apple and onions and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes. The apples and onions should be soft.

Be sure to coat the apples and onions evenly in the spices.

Lentils Apples Onions Coconut Milk in Food Processor

Puree the cooked lentils, apples and onions with the coconut milk (or apple juice or yogurt) and lemon juice.

Coconut Milk

P.S. Did you know that coconut milk is solid at room temperature?

P.P.S. I’m thinking of subbing low-fat yogurt instead of the coconut milk next time I make this… It will give that creamy texture but I use it more regularly in my cooking so it won’t sit in my fridge forever…

I now have 3/4 of a can of coconut milk to use up… I may just try to make my first real curry!

Raw Veggies

Taste to see if the dip needs any additional seasoning. You can eat this chilled or at room temperature– both are great! Serve with bread, crackers, chips or sliced raw veggies- I tried this with broccoli, carrots and broccoli stalks. Delicious! I also used this as a condiment with a mung bean & lentil dal dish (khitcheree– no, I can’t pronounce that) that I made (I promise to post about that soon!)- excellent!

Curried Lentil Dip

Happy munching!

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Zucchini & Sun-Dried Tomato Vegetable Risotto

Risotto is one of my favorite dishes because it is infused with cheesy goodness. If you’ve never tried your hand at making it, or if you’re afraid of Gordon Ramsey materializing in your kitchen insulting your cooking skills in a British accent, forget Señor Ramsey and get cookin’ because this is just too good to pass up!

(This video is definitely NSFW- language). But excellent for impromptu kitchen dance parties. That is all.

Zucchini & Sun-Dried Tomato Vegetable Risotto

Zucchini & Sun-Dried Tomato Vegetable Risotto

Adapted from this recipe.

Time: 45-50 min (15 min prep; 30-35 min cook)
Servings: 6

Ingredients

6 1/2 cups (give or take) low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio, or other starchy short grain rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1/2 to 1 full medium zucchini, thinly sliced into pieces about 2-3 inches long (see picture below)
10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced into strips

1-2 cups of your favorite veggies; I used the following:
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup broccoli stems, diced
1 jalepeño, diced

2+ tsp dried thyme
2+ tsp dried basil
2+ tsp fresh rosemary, chopped or 1/2 tsp dry rosemary
1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Special Tools: deep sauté pan or large, heavy stockpot, wooden spoon

What To Do

Heat the stock on medium high in a sauce pan– if it starts to boil, turn down the heat but keep the cover on to keep the stock hot.

Crush and dice the garlic, and chop up your onion.

Onions & Garlic- Yum!

Heat the EVOO in a sauté pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and onion, and stir with a wooden spoon (since you’re going to stir a lot, you want to use a stirring device that doesn’t conduct heat well).

Sauté the onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes, until translucent.

Add the rice and stir to mix into the garlic and onions. I ran out of Arborio rice, so I substituted with some farro that I had on hand. Note: Farro takes a bit longer to cook than Arborio. I’ve found that when using farro in risotto, it will be a little more liquidy the first day I make it, but after sitting overnight or for several days it tends to soak up a bit more liquid to make a thicker, creamier risotto (Also, I ❤ leftovers!).

Deglazing the Pan

Let the rice cook for 3-5 minutes, until the kernels turn a toasted golden brown color.  Next, deglaze the pan with the wine or an equivalent amount of stock. Add a ladelfull of stock and mix the rice and veggies into the liquid.

While that is simmering……

Courgette is a fancy name

Chop up your veggies if you haven’t already done so. You’ll want to add the veggies to the rice mixture in order of how long they’ll take to fully cook, so carrots and broccoli stalks go first.

Why do I use broccoli stalks, you ask? Well, to be honest, I just can’t bring myself to throw them away! It seems like such a waste to buy broccoli for the crown and then throw away perfectly edible food! I’ve found that these stalks work great as vegetable “filler” in meals where I just don’t have enough other veggies on hand, or in meals where the flavors and ingredients are strong enough to season this relatively innocuous veggie. I’ve found that it kind of has a mellower broccoli flavor than the florets, but melds easily into other cooked dishes– sauces, casseroles, rice. (After some quick googling, it looks like other people eat the stalks, too! Raw and cooked– check it out). I like the term “Stalker”- haha! Looks like raw stalks are loaded with Vitamin A, too!

Veggies in the Pan

Add the veggies to the pan. Sprinkle around 1 tsp of each of your spices on top of the veggies, add a ladle of stock and stir.

Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into strips and fold into the risotto. You can add them to the rice earlier or later depending on how infused you want the dish to be with their tomato flavor.

Bread & Butter ProTip: If you’re using sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drain the oil into the sauté pan instead of using plain EVOO. This will add another layer of flavor to your dish. Or, use the oil to flavor a roasted vegetable size dish.

Alternate adding a ladle of stock, a pinch of the spices and stirring until you have used up all of your stock. You’ll want to wait until the liquid is mostly absorbed before adding the next ladle (if I’m pressed for time or feeling lazy, I’ll turn up the heat on the stove to move this along). Stirring is what makes this dish so creamy– so be sure to stir every couple of minutes.

When you have one or two ladles of stock left, slowly sprinkle on the grated cheese while stirring to incorporate into the rice and veggie mixture. If you dump all of the cheese in at once, it is likely to clump together rather than melting evenly throughout the risotto.

Once the cheese has melted into the risotto, it’s ready to eat!

Serve with a fresh grating of cheese (mmmm cheese) if desired.

Zucchini & Sun-Dried Tomato Vegetable Risotto2

Bon Appétit!

Whole Wheat Beer Bread

Bread. It can be both rustically simple and exquisitely divine. Few other foods evoke such feelings of reverence (and boredom– White bread?!? Come on!). This simple quick bread is on the rustic side of the scale, though you might be inclined to thank a deity when you realize you’ve just found a way to use up all of that old Natty your friends brought to your last party.

I love this bread (and AllRecipes for the recipe) because it satisfies my cravings for piping hot homemade bread in just over an hour. And as an added bonus, my apartment gets that awesome baked goods smell! Whether you pair this with a soup (like my Crushed Lentil or Barley & Lentil Vegetable Soup) or eat it hot right out of the pan (perhaps slathered with a thin generous layer of butter), this bread is super satisfying.

His bread is buttered on both sides.

Whole Wheat Beer Bread

Time: 60 min (10 min prep, 45-50 min bake)
Servings: 12 (… if you’re not hungry)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer (Any beer- old or new- works. I’ve used Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale, Edmund Fitzgerald, Bud Lite, Miller High Life–sooo classy, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy with Lemonade)

Special Tools: Bread loaf pan (9×5 in), sturdy mixing spoon/spatula

What To Do

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F.

Spray your bread pan with non-stick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients EXCEPT beer. With a whisk, fork or mixing spatula, mix the dry ingredients evenly.

Pour in beer- slowly! If your bowl isn’t large enough, wait until the foam has evaporated or whatever foam does, stir once, and pour the rest of the beer in. Mix until the ingredients form an elastic but stiff dough.

Pour the dough into the bread pan.

Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes until the bread passes the toothpick test (insert a tooth pick halfway into the dough. If it comes out clean, the bread is done).

Cool and serve, or eat hot right out of the pan!

[More great bread quotes]

Baked Kale Chips

These kale chips are great as a garnish on a soup or a tasty, healthy snack to munch on (just don’t overdo it with the EVOO & salt). Raw kale has loads of beta carotene, iron and vitamins A, C & K so I’m looking for more ways to incorporate this into our diet. But really, when vegetables taste this good, it’s easy to find a reason!

Baked Kale

Baked Kale Chips

Time: 25 min (5 min prep, 20 min bake)
Servings: 4 (or less if you eat them all in one sitting like we did…)

Ingredients

1 or more bunch kale, preferably the curly leaf version, like Scots Kale
3-5 Tbsp Olive Oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil, aka EVOO)
3-5 Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Sea or flaked salt
Fresh ground pepper

Special Tools: Gallon sized plastic resealable bag, baking or parchment paper (optional)

What To Do

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F.

Wash and drain the kale leaves.

Hail to the Kale

Roughly chop the kale into bite sized pieces, cutting off the stalks at the end. I recommend toasting with a glass of scotch before hacking away (just kidding). If you find that some of your stalks are too thick, just pull or chop the leaves right off the stalk as I did with the stalk on the right above.

Kale in a bag

Place the kale pieces into the plastic bag and pour the EVOO & balsamic vinegar into the bag. Seal tightly (double check!) and shake the bag around until the leaves are evenly coated. I’ve found that this method coats the leaves more evenly with less oil, keeping the fat and calorie content down.

Line a large baking sheet with the baking/parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray.

Spread the kale pieces evenly on the pan in a thin layer.

Sprinkle a pinch of salt and grind some pepper on the kale.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crispy. Turn the pieces with tongs or a spatula about halfway in, after 15 minutes, to ensure that all of the pieces are evenly cooked and crunchy.

When the kale chips look done, take them out and toss in a bowl with a final sprinkle of salt and ground pepper.

Kale as a Garnish

Serve hot.

Crushed Lentil Soup

I first had crushed lentil soup at my all time favorite Lebanese restaurant- The Grape Leaf. This soup was a turning point for me in my culinary repertoire. Prior to this soup, I pretty much thought that soup was Lipton’s chicken noodle soup that my mom would make from a packet when I was sick or some hearty but fairly unhealthy soup, like my college’s baked potato soup (tasty but high in calories). After tasting the Grape Leaf’s crushed lentil soup, I realized two things: 1: I love lentils! and 2: Soup can actually be pretty darn good.

This soup could be vegetarian- pretty much just substitute the broth/stock for vegetable broth! (I almost made it vegetarian, but I couldn’t get the vegetable broth jar open. Doh!) I actually found the original version of this soup in one of the editions of the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks— a tome of vegetarian recipes that the Moosewood Collective puts out every so often, filled with creative and tasty vegetarian foods.

I make this soup pretty much as often as I make cornbread (they’re YUMMY together)– so at least once a month, if not more.

Crushed Lentil Soup garnished with Beer Bread chunks and Baked Kale

Crushed Lentil Soup

Time: Approx. 1 hour
Servings: 4-8

Ingredients

Garlic, 5-10 cloves (depending on how garlicky you like your soup)
3-5 Tbsp Olive Oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil, aka EVOO)

An assortment of vegetables, about 6-8 cups total. I use the following:
2 medium sweet onions, diced
3-4 ribs of celery, diced
1 1/2 cup carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini or yellow squash, diced
2 broccoli stalks, diced (You can use the florets as well)
1 Jalapeño (optional)

Spices
1-2 Tbsp cumin (more or less to taste)
1-2 Tbsp curry powder (more or less to taste)
1-2 Tbsp turmeric or a pinch of saffron
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala
Dash of: Paprika, fresh-ground pepper, sea salt, chili powder

1 1/2 to 2 cups lentils, rinsed and picked over
6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock, or water, heated
Sea salt to taste
Lemon zest to taste (1 lemon)
1/4 cup fresh squeeze lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Garnish: Sea salt, baked kale chips, or bread (optional)

Special Tools: Immersion blender, heavy duty blender, or food processor (to blend the soup)

What To Do

Chop up your vegetables, except garlic, into roughly the same size pieces– you just want them to cook evenly. They’re going to get blended later, so they don’t have to look pretty! If you like, you can slice or chop them up with a food processor.

Dice the garlic. In a large stockpot, heat the EVOO and garlic on medium heat  for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic has begun to turn golden (but not crispy).

Garlic & EVOO

Add the rest of the vegetables and stir to coat them with the EVOO.
Veggies

Now, add your spices and stir again. Place a lid over the pot to get cookin’!

While the vegetables are cooking, rinse and drain your lentils. Be sure to pick out any small rocks or debris. I used a mix of brown and red, but you can use your favorite variety. I’ve been trying to find French green lentils, as I’ve heard they’re exceptionally tasty.

Red & Brown Lentils

Add the rinsed lentils to the vegetables. Pour the heated stock into the vegetable-lentil mixture and stir until combined. Let the soup simmer, with the lid on, on medium heat for 20-30 minutes.Adding Chicken Broth

Your soup will look like this when its about done. Test the lentils and vegetables with a tasting spoon (Those plastic spoons you get from take out are perfect!  Yes, I am one of those people- I reuse plastic utensils). If the lentils and veggies are tender, and you’re satisfied with the seasonings, remove the pot from the heat and over to a stable flat area, like your counter. Be sure to use potholders! What's cookin' good lookin?

If you have an immersion blender, you can start blending up the soup right away. If you’re using a blender or food processor, you may want to allow the soup to cool down (for your safety) before blending.

Blend the soup for 2-3 minutes, until fairly smooth. Ultimately the texture is up to you, so be sure to taste the soup at various stages until you’re happy (coarse, medium, fine). I generally prefer a finely blended soup.

Its like a Jacuzzi... a sharp Jacuzzi

Zest and juice one lemon (if you don’t have a lemon on hand, you can omit the zest and just use the juice). Stir in the lemon juice (lemon juice tends to break down when heated, so to retain the flavor, add at the end of the cooking process).  Taste the soup, and add more lemon juice if desired.

If you cooled the soup down, gently reheat the soup before serving.

Garnish, if desired, with bread and kale chips. Serve hot!

Enjoy, and as they say in Lebanon: “The eating is proportional to the love.” (Thanks to this blog for that phrase!)

Cornbread

I make this cornbread probably every other week, and each time it only lasts a couple of days…

Anyway, this is an easy and versatile bread that you can customize to your particular tastes and the dish its accompanying. My most recent iteration included jalapeños- the perfect amount of kick.

Cornbread

The gnomes are coming... for the cornbread!

Makes 20ish pieces

Cook Time: 10 min prep, 25-30 min cook, 10 min cool (if you can keep your hands off them!)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

2 cups plain yogurt or buttermilk
½ cup milk
¼ cup brown sugar or maple syrup
2 eggs, beaten
Non-Stick Spray (or melted butter)

Optional: diced jalapeños, minced garlic, shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese (choose ONE of these, or none)

What To Do

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Coat a 9×13 inch pan evenly with non-stick spray or butter. You could also use a cast iron skillet.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Since I dislike sifting things, I usually just dump everything into the bowl and mix together with a wire whisk.So dry! Like a desert. In your mouth.

In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients (yogurt, milk, brown sugar and eggs) and whisk until mixed.

Yin and yangFold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir (slowly) until combined.

If you’re adding in any optional ingredients, drop them into the bowl now and fold them in. I added jalapeños and diced crushed garlic to this batch, but you could add shredded cheddar cheese, sun dried tomatoes, onions or peppers.Pour (spoon, really- this mixture is pretty thick) the cornbread dough into the prepared baking pan. Be sure to spread it evenly- smooth it out with your spatula if needed. I topped mine with shredded pecorino romano.

Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cook longer if you prefer drier cornbread.

Once the toothpick comes out clean, remove the cornbread from the oven and cool for ten minutes before serving… or scarf down half the pan. Your call.

Serve warm with (garlic herb) butter or your favorite soup!

Adventures in Food, Pt. 1

I had a pretty great day today- I had a vacation day and I got to do a LOT of shopping, and my boyfriend got back from his trip. So pretty much the trifecta of awesome.

Today is my first post about food adventures, which means I saw something cool on a shelf somewhere and decided to buy it.

We were in our local Indo-American Convenience store stocking up on essentials like red lentils and moong beans, when we saw this gem on the shelf. It’s Kurkure, Naughty Tomatoes flavor. Yes, that’s right: Naughty Tomatoes.

There wasn't much cheese flavor in these

So naughty

Just in case you can’t see how awesome this packaging is, here is a close up of what I’m going to call the flavor mascot:

Luscious Lips- Tomato LipsLook at those lips! And the horns- they’re vibrating (with what? Naughty-ness?). And the whole tomato-body-thing is pulsing with bright rays of light (or radiation? Maybe that’s why a tomato has such luscious lips and quivering horns).

A treat such as this must be shared with loved ones and friends, so I recruited my boyfriend and a fellow blogger/friend to join in this taste extravaganza. A bite-by-bite commentary follows:

Boyfriend and Blogger-Friend: (pick up and sniff the Kurkure-thing)

Fake Cheetos

Blogger-Friend: Smells like fake pizza flavoring.

Boyfriend: Smells like tomatoes.

Boyfriend and Blogger-Friend (Crunch)

Blogger-Friend: (Grimace, Looks confused): It looks like a Cheeto, but tastes like a tomato.

Boyfriend: This makes me want real Cheetos.

Blogger-Friend: It’s like you sucked all of the cheese dust off of a stale Cheeto, then dipped it in ketchup.

Boyfriend: There is just a little zip.

Blogger-Friend: They’re not good, but I feel strangely compelled to keep eating them.

Boyfriend: They aren’t as bad as Mountain Dew Doritos.

Blogger-Friend: They could be an accoutrement to tomato soup.

…. 30 minutes later

Blogger-Friend: A bowl of Cheetos would not have lasted as long as these have. And I would have a lot more orange crap on my lips.

So there you have it: Kurkure Naughty Tomato fake Cheetos. Tastes like stale Cheetos dipped in ketchup. All right!

Barley & Lentil Vegetable Soup

The finished product- Yum!Winter is back again, and snow on the ground means that a hot bowl of soup is the perfect meal. Cooking in the kitchen seems to make my chilly apartment warmer (nevermind that I have the heat cranked up to 80 degrees). I thought I’d try this hearty soup to use up some of the barley that’s been sitting in my fridge forever.

I found my inspiration for this soup on AllReceipes.com but as usual I quickly deviated from the instructions to develop my own creation. This is a simple but hearty winter soup loaded with veggies and healthy grains (and my favorite legume- lentils <3).

Barley & Lentil Vegetable Soup
Makes 12 Servings

Time: Approx. 15 min prep, 45+ min cook time, 1 hr total

12 cups vegetable (or chicken or beef) broth (low sodium is preferable)
1 1/2 cups uncooked barley (I used quick cooking barley)
1 1/2 to 2 cups uncooked, rinsed lentils
3 large carrots, chopped (Ok, I cheated on this- I used peeled baby carrots)
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 zucchini and/or squash, chopped
1 1/2 onion, chopped
5-8 peeled garlic cloves, chopped (feel free to use more… or less)
1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes (you can also used diced canned tomatoes in sauce)
4 1/2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
3 teaspoons dried parsley
3 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoon chili powder
2 tsp cumin
Pinch of Garam Masala (optional- I had some on hand and thought it would be interesting)
1-1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (a couple of good shakes)
Hot Sauce- to taste
Salt to taste, use less if your broth and canned tomatoes have a high sodium content

 

  1. In a large stockpot (and I do mean large!) begin heating your broth on medium high. I used about 3 tsp low sodium chicken bouillon powder mixed with the water- you can add more but that’s all I had left!Stock Pot I microwaved my water prior to adding to the stock pot to cut down on cooking time.
  2. Chop your vegetables so that they’re roughly the same size. If you have a food processor, I highly recommend using it here- it will shave off loads of prep time. I used my Cuisinart with the slicer blade to do the heavy lifting. The pieces were a little larger than I would have preferred if I

    chopped by hand, but that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make when my stomach is grumbling. Also- feel free to substitute your favorite veggies for the ones listed above. The garlic, carrot, celery and onion are typically considered the core “aromatics”- so try to use them if Chopped Vegetablesyou have them on hand. (I promise you won’t taste the onion).

  3. Add in the barley and rinsed lentils. Stir to mix the ingredients together. Your pot should be pretty much full now.
  4. Add the bay leaves and spices and stir.Spices Since the recipe already called for curry, I thought an Indian flare might be interesting, so I added cumin and garam masala (a blend of spices that has a kind of sweetish spicy flavor).
  5. Let the soup cook on medium high until the mix comes to  a boil, stirring occasionally- for about 15-20 minutes. Cover loosely. The barley and lentils will absorb the liquid and thicken the soup.
  6. Once the soup has reached a boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium low. Simmer the soup for another 15-30 minutes, until the barley and lentils are tender and the soup has thickened.Soup Cooking
  7. Let the soup cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve with a hearty crusty bread or cornbread. Enjoy!

    Pot of Soup

    Yummy Soup!