Curried Lentil Stew

We’ve had a return of chilly weather, which means I can make soup for dinner a few more times before this year’s heat sets in and we only want to eat cold, green things for the next seven months.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the heat!  Soup is just so easy and satisfying, that it’s a shame to waste the last cool nights eating salad already.

I happened upon this recipe online and, after making a few adjustments, whipped it up for dinner in 30 minutes.  It’s delightfully flavorful, unapologetically nutritious, exceptionally filling and just ethnic enough to feel like a refreshing change from the norm.

We paired ours with some queso garlic toast made from sourdough bread brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with granular garlic, chopped cilantro and crumbled queso fresco. Toast it under a hot broiler for a couple of minutes. Yum!

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Curried Lentil Stew

Adapted from: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/why-i-dont-like-instant-pot-curried-lentil-sweet-potato-stew/

Serves: 5-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ – 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 pound yams or sweet potatoes, finely diced

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup plain yogurt or queso fresco

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onions. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until golden.

Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.

Add curry powder, salt and pepper and stir constantly for about 30 seconds to allow spices to toast.

Add tomatoes, stock and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

Add cubed yams and simmer another 10-15 minutes, just until lentils and yams are soft.

Stir in chopped cilantro just before serving and garnish with either yogurt or queso fresco.

I Heart Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp tacos, how I love thee.  Garlicky, with plenty of shredded cheese, cabbage and salsa, these beach-side tacos are love at first sight.  They make the perfect meal any night of the year, but especially May the 5th. So, if you need a quick, delicious Cinco de Mayo dinner, look no further.

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Shrimp Tacos

1 lb raw shrimp
4-6 large cloves garlic
salt
pepper
1/2 a lime (extra wedges for serving)
corn tortillas
pepper jack cheese, shredded (can substitute cheddar)
1/4 head green cabbage, shredded
1 avocado, diced
blender salsa

Peel and de-vein shrimp.  (Incidentally, this is my favorite tool for doing so. Paired with a willing husband it’s really the best method.) Pat shrimp dry with paper towels so it doesn’t splatter as much when you fry it.  Or, don’t.  It’s your stovetop, you decide.

Shred the cheese and melt a little between two tortillas (like a quesadilla).  Keep warm in a tortilla warmer or under a dishtowel until you are ready to eat.  Each of these mini quesadillas will make one taco, so plan accordingly.

Finely chop your garlic and heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.  You want enough room for the shrimp to fit in a single layer.

Toss in shrimp and garlic, season heavily with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, 2 minutes per side.  When curled and pink, they are done.  Avoid overcooking them, it’s really a quick process.

Remove shirmp and garlic to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Place in a bowl and drizzle any pan juices over the mix.  Squeeze half a lime over all and toss to combine.

Top each “double tortilla quesadilla” with a small handful of cabbage, a large scoop of shrimp, some avocado and a little salsa.  Serve with lime wedges and napkins. Divine.

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Need a good cutting board that can go in the dishwasher and won’t transfer that garlic and onion taste to your strawberries?  Check out Epicurean.

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Garlic makes everything better.

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Party on, taco lovers.

Another Soup – Tomato Bisque

IMG_1860.JPGWhat I secretly love most about soup for dinner is that it’s almost a full meal in one pot. Add some bread and/or a salad on the side and you’ve got dinner in 30 minutes. The cleanup is a snap and the leftovers are always in demand, unlike other meals that end up taking up valuable fridge and Tupperware real estate until you guiltily toss them a week later.

Tomatoes are the number one reason I grow a garden. I eat them daily during the summer months, which makes it all the more inexplicable that until this year I could not make a homemade tomato soup that I actually liked.

Enter: bacon. It really is the key to deep flavor here. While you could leave it out and add a dash of smoked paprika to appease any vegetarians in the crowd, it wouldn’t be quite so delicious.
Tomato Bisque

Adapted from: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/11/12/recipe-tomato-bisque/

4 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

2 slices bacon

4 cloves garlic

5 tablespoons flour

5 cups chicken broth/stock

1 28-ounce canned diced tomatoes

3 parsley sprigs or 2 tsp dried

3 fresh thyme sprigs (remove leaves from stem) or 1 tsp dried

1 bay leaf

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt (salt to taste based on your broth’s saltiness

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Cook diced onion in butter for about 5 – 6 minutes or until it softens and begins to brown.

Add bacon and garlic and stir for another minute or two or until the bacon gets crisp.

Sprinkle flour over all and stir for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid scorching.

Add tomatoes and broth, whisking constantly.

Add herbs and simmer about 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.

Puree the soup either in a blender (in batches) or with a handheld immersion blender

Stir in the heavy cream and salt & pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash Bisque

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It almost never snows where I live, so when it does, making soup is a requirement.  Today we saw the first, and possibly last, white flurries of the season and while the kids were wildly planning to build a gigantic snowman with the 0.047 inches of snow, I was dreaming of a rich, luscious bowl of soup.

I still have a few butternut squash from our garden in storage and I have been brainstorming the perfect recipe for weeks now.  I wanted it to have layers of flavor, like my favorite tomato bisque (I PROMISE to post that recipe this week as well) and be creamy without masking the flavor of the squash.

I used several recipes as a baseline for this one, and I think it turned out to be the perfect combo of easy prep and gourmet taste.  You’ll want to pull out your blender, one of these amazing jelly roll pans and a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven.   I love this one and may in fact consider saving it during a house fire if all my people were safely accounted for. Other than that, you’ll be sitting down to a steaming bowl within 45 minutes.  If you served it with a side of sourdough bread and butter, I’m certain no one would mind.

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

1 large or 2 medium butternut squash peeled and sliced (or use a combo of butternut and white acorn, which you won’t need to peel)
4 medium carrots, cut lengthwise
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
½ a large onion, cut into large chunks
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
salt
pepper
4-5 cups chicken stock
2 large fresh sage leaves or a pinch of dried
salt and pepper to taste
¾-1 cup heavy cream

2 -3 cups mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Prepare squash, carrots, garlic and onion and arrange on a jelly roll pan.  Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Slice 2 Tbsp of butter and place on top of veggies.

Roast for about 20-35 minutes, or until everything is beginning to char, but before it really burns.

Remove from oven and transfer veggies to blender with about 3 cups of the stock.  Puree until smooth.

Combine puree with as much remaining stock as necessary to reach the desired consistency. Add sage leaves and simmer gently for 10 minutes or so to combine flavors, stirring often.

Meanwhile, clean and slice mushrooms and saute in a little butter.  They will sweat out a lot of liquid.  Keep sauteing until the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are coated in a golden glaze.  

Taste for seasoning and adjust.  Stir in the heavy cream and heat through, but DO NOT ALLOW to boil.  Remove sage leaves or inform your guests that they may find a “lucky leaf” in their bowl.

Serve drizzled with plain or flavored olive oil and with a spoonful of mushrooms for garnish.  Sourdough bread with butter is the perfect accompaniment.

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Easy Roasted Vegetables 

By request, I give you:

Easy Roasted Vegetables

Vegetables, of course! (We use this technique for Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, thick slices of cabbage, and butternut squash (or other winter varieties)

Olive oil (or avocado oil)

Kosher or coarse salt

Freshly-ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash and prep all veggies.

  • Broccoli/Cauliflower: separate large clusters into single pieces about the size you’d see on a raw veggie tray and then slice in half, exposing a flat side.
  • Brussels Sprouts: peel outer layer away. Trim stem ends and slice in half the long way (hot-dog style!).
  • Cabbage: peel outer layer and cut 1 inch slices (they will be a circle) from the whole head.
  • Winter Squash: peel (this peeler will change your life for under $10, promise!) and either cube or cut into 1/2 inch-thick slices.

Toss veggies in olive oil until well coated. (Except cabbage, which you will put directly on the pan and then drizzle with oil).

Arrange veggies, cut side down, on a baking sheet. You won’t need to grease it as long as you’ve oiled your vegetables well.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast at 450 until the underside that is contact with the pan is nice and golden. Use a spatula to lift a few specimens from the pan to check for doneness. Resist the urge to flip them or turn the oven down. I promise they will be perfection!

Enjoy!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

IMG_1787.JPGThere’s definitely a chill in the air and everyone seems to be passing the sniffles back and forth, which means it’s time for some chicken soup. While I do love a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup, I admit that sometimes I like my soup sans noodles. This version is gluten free, but hearty and delicious. The batch here serves a crowd of 8-10, so cut it in half if you have fewer people, or, better yet, invite some family or friends to share it with you, unless you are sick, in which case enjoy a bowl a day for a week as you recuperate.

The amounts and types of vegetables aren’t set in stone here.  Feel free to experiment with other types or use what you have on hand.  Regular peas would be fine in place of sugar snap.  Green beans, broccoli and corn would also work well.  If you don’t have wild rice, you may substitute plain brown rice in its place.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups wild rice blend
2 tsp salt (or more depending on the saltiness of your stock)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
12 cups chicken stock
1-2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell peppers
1/2 cup diced sugar snap peas
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (may use canned)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Cook onion in butter until soft and beginning to brown.  Add rice, salt and pepper and stir for a minute.  Add chicken stock and simmer for 45 min – 1 hour or until the rice is cooked through and the darker grains split open and begin to curl.

Add carrots and celery and simmer 10 minutes.  Add peppers, peas and chicken and return to a simmer.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.  Remove from heat, stir in parsley and enjoy.

This soup is great alone or topped with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of pesto.

Hurry Curry

Curry is such a great dish for families.  It’s natural sweetness is a hit with kids, yet it can be spiced up to suit the grownup tastes as well.  If you’d like to keep it mild, be sure to use a mild or sweet curry powder, rather than a hot variety.  For those of you wanting to turn up the heat, try adding a couple dashes of ground cayenne with the other spices.  Be sure to put some rice on before you begin the curry, or you’ll be ready to eat long before the rice is done.  The best part?  It’s on the table in 20 minutes!

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Hurry Curry
adapted from a recipe by The Pioneer Woman

2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 large or 2 small onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon curry powder, I like a sweet one
Dash garam masala
1 cup chicken broth
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3-4 smallish red potatoes, cooked and cut into chunks
2 large bell peppers, cut into chunks
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
lime wedges for serving

Precook potatoes by either boiling, steaming or microwaving in one of those handy cloth pouches. (When cool enough to handle, cut into large dice.)

Heat a large skillet on medium for a minute and then add the oil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and saute onions for several minutes, until beginning to brown.  Add garlic and jalapeno and saute for another minute.

Add spices and toast, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.  Stir in broth, coconut milk, honey and lime juice until combined.

Add chickpeas, potatoes and peppers and simmer for 5-10 minutes to combine flavors.  Remove from heat, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over rice with lime wedges.

Quick and Easy Dinners: Ham Fried Rice

Fried rice is a quick, crowd-pleaser of a one-dish dinner.  I love it for it’s adaptability as much as its taste.  You can switch the protein out for chicken, shrimp or even tofu (gasp!) and the veggies are whatever you have on hand.  Ideally, it is made with leftover, cooled rice, but I’ve been known to whip up a quick batch of white rice and then fry it into this dinner in under 30 minutes.  None of the hungry people at my house seemed to mind!  Assemble the necessaries and have everything ready to go so that when you begin stir frying you can stir continuously.  (Not pictured are soy sauce and the actual ham.  Do as I say, not as I photograph.  Get everything out before.)IMG_0945

Begin by frying the onions in a wok or large skillet on medium to medium-low heat in some avocado oil (or other oil appropriate for high-heat) for several minutes until translucent.  Add the garlic and turn the heat up to medium-high (if your stove top is lacking in ooomph you may need to use a high-heat setting here).  Stir continuously for 1 minute.  Then add the veggies, reserving any soft ones for last (peppers, zucchini, etc.).  Stir fry for several minutes, adding remaining veggies for the final 30 seconds or so.

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Scoot everything over to the side of the wok and add another tablespoon of oil.  Put the rice right on the new oil and begin stir frying.  Add all sauce ingredients and the chopped ham.

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Meanwhile, with your third and fourth arms, because your other two are busy stirring continually, cook the scrambled eggs.  I like to do this as I would an omelette and then slice it into strips afterwards:

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Serve to hungry people.

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Ham Fried Rice
3 Tbsp avocado oil, divided (or other oil suitable for high-heat)
1 small to medium onion, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups or so veggies, diced or cut into small pieces (peas, carrots, corn, green beans, peppers, zucchini, sugar snap peas and broccoli all work well here, as does one of those bags of mixed veggies from the frozen food section of the grocery store)
4-5 cups cooked rice, white or brown
2 cups cooked ham, diced
3-4 Tbsp soy sauce.  Start with 3 and then taste for seasoning
1 1/2 Tbsp oyster sauce
dash fish sauce
freshly ground pepper to taste
3 0r 4 eggs, beaten.

Cook onions in oil over medium until translucent.  Increase heat to medium/high and add garlic, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add vegetables (reserving softer veggies for later) and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, just until crisp-tender.  Add soft veggies for the last 30 seconds or so.

Scoot everything over in the wok and add another tablespoon of oil.  Place rice on top of new oil and begin to stir fry.  Add ham, soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and pepper.  Continue stir frying till everything is well mixed and the ham is warmed through.  Meanwhile, cook the eggs omelette style and then remove to a cutting board.  Slice into strips.

Place rice mix in large serving bowl and top with strips of egg.  Serve with additional soy sauce at the table.

Cookbook Review

Do you have this book?   Or perhaps you have the older version, like I do.  Jamie’s Food Revolution one of my favorites and today I’m here to tell you why.  I hate almost nothing more than buying a cookbook that turns out not to be a good fit for me.  I feel bad for not using it, but there it is on the shelf staring back at me with its offerings of Duck Confit and Scallop Ceveche when what I really need is a recipe for Dinner 15 Minutes Ago, if you know what I mean.  Enter one of my culinary heroes, Jamie Oliver.

Jamie Oliver

This book is full and I mean FULL of great recipes from easy salads and sides (that normal people would eat), to quick 15-20 minute meals, to roasted dinner that are all dressed up for Sunday.  It’s hands-down my favorite cookbook for dinners.  I have other favorite books in the baking, bread, and regional categories, but when it comes time to put a dinner on the table that will please everyone, this book is where I always turn.  So, if you’re looking for a few new recipes to add to your rotation, I’d highly recommend this book.  “Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it…”(quick, name that 80’s reference)

Five-Minute Fajitas

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Those of you with little people home during the lunch hour know that it can be hard to balance the desire for cheese quesadillas (or other kid fare) with the want of a salad or something a little more grown up.

Fajitas are a quick adult lunch (or dinner!) concocted from humble quesadilla beginnings.  No matter where you are geographically, peppers should be abundant this time of the year.  So, go grab some and dress up your next lunch!  Maybe the kiddos will even try a bite of the veggies!

Don’t be frightened off by the smoked paprika.  It’s neither spicy nor strange.  It is probably my favorite spice after salt, pepper and garlic.  It lends a smoky flavor even in small amounts.  I love to add it to rubs, marinades, soups, and all my southwestern dishes.  It really is key to the deep flavor here.

Cutting down on carbs?  No problem!  I often eat this same fajita mix over two scrambled eggs, for a protein packed southwestern lunch or dinner.

Five Minute Fajitas
makes enough filling for 4 tortillas or  2 large scrambles

1 Tbsp avocado or olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, any color, cut into strips
1 can black beans (or other protein: a handful of shredded cooked chicken, a few strips of cooked steak.)
1/4 tsp granular garlic (or garlic powder)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
dash cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp good quality olive oil

4 whole-wheat or other variety tortillas (or a couple of scrambled eggs)
4 slices cheddar cheese  (or jack or pepper jack).
Optional extras for topping: salsa, sour cream, avocado, sliced black olives

Directions:
Heat a saute pan on medium for half a minute and then add a little avocado or olive oil.  Add your sliced onions and saute 3 minutes until starting to brown.  Add peppers and saute 1 more minute.  Add all spices and allow to toast 30 seconds while stirring.  Add lime juice, olive oil and beans or other protein.  Stir around until everything is coated nicely.

Gently melt a slice of cheese on each tortilla in the microwave.  If using eggs, grate the cheese and add it at the end with the other toppings.  Top each tortilla with a scoop of fajita filling and any additional toppings.  Enjoy!

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