Undoing ‘over-doing’ with: Dal (lentils)


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I recently came to the realization that I’m an over-doer.

The past month, I’ve been battling a hamstring injury that resulted from “over-doing” it. After a few lazy weeks, I felt inspired to get a jump-start on my marathon training with a 12-mile hilly run (after doing a 9-mile run two days earlier). Followed by a 4-mile walk on the waterfront, and dancing the night away in strappy heels.

On Christmas Eve, I hosted a “small” brunch for 13 friends. While people were still mingling over mimosas, I was in the kitchen whipping up coffee cake for my boyfriend’s family–one of six baked goods I planned to bring them for Christmas dessert. Why six things, not one or two? I have no idea.

And last year, we celebrated Valentine’s Day three times, for three entire days.

Three.

…Birthdays, anniversaries and promotions are celebrated the same way.

So I’ve decided to simplify things–starting with this simple lentil dish, dal. It’s so simple, it only has 3 letters (sometimes 4, daal). It’s as simple as simple can get: lentils, water, onion and spices.

It’s not exactly an authentic Indian recipe, but I’ve adapted this recipe from how my Persian boyfriend and his mom prepare it. You can serve it as a side dish, or eat it as a vegetarian main dish over brown rice with a side of roasted veggies of your choice.

This is as simple as it will get for me…my mom’s 50th birthday party is this weekend, 50 people are coming, and I will be over-doing it. So at least for today…I can just breathe. Ahhhhhhh.

Dal

Serves about 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main dish

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2 tsp. cooking oil

1 cup imported red lentils

1 cup yellow split peas (optional, add 1 more cup of lentils if you omit these)

6 cups water

1 large onion, diced and/or chopped (I like to do half diced, half chopped in bigger chunks or strips)

2-3 T turmeric

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

*Note* If you don’t want to buy a bunch of different spices, you can buy curry powder from the grocery store and omit all the other spices, EXCEPT the turmeric. Use about 1 to 2 T.

Use imported red lentils. I get these from my local middle eastern grocer. You might also be able to find them at a regular grocery store, either in the bulk aisle or the ethnic foods aisle. They’re smaller and flatter than regular lentils, and they become creamy when cooked. I also like to use yellow split peas for texture, but you don’t have to. Just add an extra cup of red lentils if you choose to skip the split peas.

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Dice or chop your onion. I failed to grocery shop so I ended up having to use half of a red onion and half of a yellow onion. Doesn’t really make a difference. I like to dice half my onion, and chop the other half in bigger chunks. Just adds texture, but it’s ultimately up to you!

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Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onions. Saute until slightly softened. Add spices to onion, mixing to coat onions with the spices, and saute another minute.

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Add lentils and split peas to the onion and spices, and mix well.

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Add about 3 to 4 cups of water to the pot. Cover and let simmer about 10 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on the pot because the lentils will soak up the water, and the lentils could burn to the bottom of the pot (You may have to add more or less water than the 6 cups this recipe calls for, depending on how quickly your lentils soak up the water. Turn down heat if necessary.). Add remaining 2 cups of water and simmer another 15-20 minutes on low to medium-low heat.

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The lentils should look thick and creamy like this when it’s done. The split peas take longer to cook than the lentils, so taste one of the split peas to check if it’s done. It should be soft! You can always add more water if it seems too thick, or if the lentils seem to be sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

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Serve over brown rice with roasted veggies to make it a meal! Or, serve as a side dish. I ate it with lemon saffron chicken that Novin made…recipe to come, later!

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Enjoy!

RECIPE

Dal

2 tsp. cooking oil

1 cup imported red lentils

1 cup yellow split peas (optional, add 1 more cup of lentils if you omit these)

6 cups water

1 large onion, diced and/or chopped (I like to do half diced, half chopped in bigger chunks or strips)

2-3 T turmeric

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

*Note* If you don’t want to buy a bunch of different spices, you can buy curry powder from the grocery store and omit all the other spices, EXCEPT the turmeric. Use about 1 to 2 T.

Use imported red lentils. I get these from my local middle eastern grocer. You might also be able to find them at a regular grocery store, either in the bulk aisle or the ethnic foods aisle. They’re smaller and flatter than regular lentils, and they become creamy when cooked. I also like to use yellow split peas for texture, but you don’t have to. Just add an extra cup of red lentils if you choose to skip the split peas.

Dice or chop your onion. I failed to grocery shop so I ended up having to use half of a red onion and half of a yellow onion. Doesn’t really make a difference. I like to dice half my onion, and chop the other half in bigger chunks. Just adds texture, but it’s ultimately up to you!

Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onions. Saute until slightly softened. Add spices to onion, mixing to coat onions with the spices, and saute another minute.

Add lentils and split peas to the onion and spices, and mix well.

Add about 3 to 4 cups of water to the pot. Cover and let simmer about 10 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on the pot because the lentils will soak up the water, and the lentils could burn to the bottom of the pot (You may have to add more or less water than the 6 cups this recipe calls for, depending on how quickly your lentils soak up the water. Turn down heat if necessary.). Add remaining 2 cups of water and simmer another 15-20 minutes on low to medium-low heat.

The lentils should look thick and creamy like this when it’s done. The split peas take longer to cook than the lentils, so taste one of the split peas to check if it’s done. It should be soft! You can always add more water if it seems too thick, or if the lentils seem to be sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Serve over brown rice with roasted veggies to make it a meal! Or, serve as a side dish. I ate it with lemon saffron chicken that Novin made…recipe to come, later!

Quitting TV with: Teriyaki Salmon and Asian Cabbage ‘Slaw


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It’s 17 days into the new year, and I’ve been completely TV-free. NO Modern Family, no Happy Endings, no New Girl, no Mike and Molly, no Two and a Half Men, no Two Broke Girls, no Whitney, no Big Bang Theory, no local newscast at 4, 5, 6…and….WOW…I could go on….but it’s just now hitting me that we had a bit of a TV problem.

Giving up TV wasn’t my choice. It wasn’t really my vice either.

It was my boyfriend’s.

It all started when he got the ability to record TV shows. One-by-one, he added shows to his queue whenever a new one came out that looked interesting. Once we started watching them, he felt the need to watch EVERY episode and keep up with them weekly. When his queue started to fill up, he’d panic. If we didn’t watch all the recorded episodes and delete them, the queue would fill and stop recording new episodes. Tragically, we’d miss out on all the new episodes and have to watch them on Hulu…with commercials. Oh, the horror!

(*Novin, if you’re reading this: the next time you get the urge to start watching TV again, take note of how ridiculous this all sounds and refer back to this blog post regularly. Please and thank you.)

So anyway, he resolved to stop watching TV during the week and instead use his evenings to work on other projects, and learn! It’s working out quite nicely, even for me. For one, I have much more free time for cooking special meals…and blogging! And we actually sit at the table while we have dinner and….talk! Converse! What a concept! Even our cat joins us at an empty seat.

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Said cat joining us for dinner.

We get to enjoy every bite of the meal in front of us….sloooowly. Well, I eat slowly. He finishes several minutes before me then stands on the heating vent, or takes a couple laps around the kitchen until I finish dinner. Ha.

Here’s a recipe for my teriyaki salmon and cabbage slaw, one of the meals we had time to prepare together because we weren’t watching TV!

Teriyaki Salmon

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Makes 2-3 servings

Ingredients

1 pound salmon (we kept skin on, but you can remove it if you want)

½ cup low-sodium soy sauce

½ cup mirin (can be found in the vinegar section of Asian grocers)

2 T sugar

1 T rice vinegar

1 garlic clove

2 thin slices of fresh ginger

salt and pepper, optional

green onions to garnish, optional

To make the sauce, add soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic clove and ginger to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes, while stirring. Turn down heat to low and simmer the sauce another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should begin to thicken (When you remove it from heat it will continue to thicken). Remove the garlic clove and ginger chunks.

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Lightly brush your salmon with sesame oil, and lightly salt and pepper your salmon on both sides.  Heat a pan (preferably cast iron) to medium-high heat. If you are using salmon with skin on, put the salmon in the pan with skin side down first. Sear for about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip over to other side. Brush salmon with a little bit of teriyaki sauce. Cook for an additional 2 minutes or so. Your cooking time will vary depending on how thick your salmon is.  Rule of thumb is to cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

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Transfer the salmon to a plate as soon as it’s done cooking so it won’t over cook, then brush a desired amount of the teriyaki sauce on top. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.

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Asian Cabbage ‘Slaw

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Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

½ head cabbage, shredded or finely chopped

1 to 2 carrots, shredded

1/3 cup red onion, finely sliced or diced

2 to 3 T toasted sesame seeds

1 to 2 T sesame oil

½ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup water

salt and pepper to taste

cayenne (optional)

green onions to garnish, optional

In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, water and sesame oil.

In a large bowl, add shredded/chopped cabbage, shredded carrots, 1 T sesame seeds and red onion. Mix in dressing. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to your taste and mix well. You can also add more sesame oil if you like that strong flavor. Garnish with 1 T sesame seeds and sliced green onions, if desired. Serve with teriyaki salmon and brown rice for a complete meal!

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ENJOY!

Teriyaki Salmon

1 pound salmon (we kept skin on, but you can remove it if you want)

½ cup low-sodium soy sauce

½ cup mirin (can be found in the vinegar section of Asian grocers)

2 T sugar

1 T rice vinegar

1 garlic clove

2 thin slices of fresh ginger

salt and pepper, optional

green onions to garnish, optional

To make the sauce, add soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic clove and ginger to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes, while stirring. Turn down heat to low and simmer the sauce another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should begin to thicken (When you remove it from heat it will continue to thicken). Remove the garlic clove and ginger chunks.

Lightly brush your salmon with sesame oil, and lightly salt and pepper your salmon on both sides.  Heat a pan (preferably cast iron) to medium-high heat. If you are using salmon with skin on, put the salmon in the pan with skin side down first. Sear for about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip over to other side. Brush salmon with a little bit of teriyaki sauce. Cook for an additional 2 minutes or so. Your cooking time will vary depending on how thick your salmon is.  Rule of thumb is to cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Transfer the salmon to a plate as soon as it’s done cooking so it won’t over cook, then brush a desired amount of the teriyaki sauce on top. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.

Asian Cabbage ‘Slaw

½ head cabbage, shredded or finely chopped

1 to 2 carrots, shredded

1/3 cup red onion, finely sliced or diced

2 to 3 T toasted sesame seeds

1 to 2 T sesame oil

½ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup water

salt and pepper to taste

cayenne (optional)

green onions to garnish, optional

In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, water and sesame oil.

In a large bowl, add shredded/chopped cabbage, shredded carrots, 1 T sesame seeds and red onion. Mix in dressing. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to your taste and mix well. You can also add more sesame oil if you like that strong flavor. Garnish with 1 T sesame seeds and sliced green onions, if desired. Serve with teriyaki salmon and brown rice for a complete meal!

Rejoicing new Photoshop skills with: Mini, Smoky Turkey Meatloaf and Mashed Cauliflower


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Well hello there. Happy……Halloween, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, New Year, and any other holiday you may have celebrated in the last four months, because that’s how long I’ve been gone from this blogging business. Yeesh.

I’ve still been hard at work in the kitchen, but a new job, marathon #3, and a web design class at my local community college left me with no motivation to pick up my camera. I may have neglected my food blog for months, but at least now I know how to erase the appearance of wrinkles on an old lady’s face in Photoshop. I can also alter an image of my lazy cat in a pink hippo suit on the couch, to appear as if she’s adventurously leaping off Pier 39 in San Francisco.

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Hey. Don’t judge. It’s a valuable skill I might need to utilize someday. If not, well, I still have this blog.

Now that it’s 2013, life is back to normal and I’m starting off the year with healthy, satisfying, complete meal ideas––in preparation for my Caribbean cruise vacation next month.

To start, I decided to make mini turkey meatloaves and mashed cauliflower. It’s much lighter than traditional meatloaf and mashed potatoes, but still tastes like comfort food. With this meal, you’ll be able to survive through chilly, dreary January, without packing extra poundage. It’s so tasty, you won’t even miss the mashed potatoes! Serve with a side of salad greens with balsamic vinaigrette and you’ve got one tasty weeknight dinner.

Mini, Smoky Turkey Meatloaf 

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Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

19 oz. ground turkey (That’s just the odd, prepackaged amount I bought. I’d highly recommend substituting half the turkey for ground chicken sausage, for more flavor.)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 of a medium onion, diced

1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

1/2 – 2/3 cup quick-oats oatmeal

1 egg

1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)

1 can tomato sauce

a pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. salt (or to your taste)

generous amount of fresh cracked pepper

ketchup (optional)

You can add seasonings such as basil, oregano, thyme or parsley if you want to add extra flavor.

You don’t have to do this if you want to save time, but I started by sautéing the onions until they started to caramelize, just for some added depth of flavor. In a large bowl, mix together spices. Add the oatmeal, egg, milk, onion, liquid smoke, and mix. I got too excited and threw everything on top of the meat…but then the flavor doesn’t distribute as evenly. Don’t do what I did. Ha.

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Don’t do this.

Add the ground turkey to the mixture (and the ground chicken sausage if you choose, which please do), and mix well. Add about 3 tablespoons of the tomato sauce to the meat, and mix in. If for some reason you find that your meat mixture is too wet, you can always add more oatmeal.

Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.  Press some of the meat mixture into each of the muffin cups, leaving a little bit of room at the top of each cup, to add sauce later.

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Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Add the remaining tomato sauce and/or ketchup to the top of each mini loaf, then cook for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with mashed cauliflower (recipe below). Enjoy!

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Mashed Cauliflower

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Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower, washed

1/4 cup cheese (Trader Joe’s vegan cheese for me!)

1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 cans chicken or vegetable broth

2-3 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp. garlic powder (optional)

Cut a whole head of cauliflower into big chunks, and put in a large pot.

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Add 2-3 cans of chicken or vegetable broth, garlic and water.  The cauliflower doesn’t have to be completely covered by liquid, but most of it should be.  Cover the pot with a lid to keep moisture in, and boil for about 15 minutes or until soft enough to mash easily with a potato masher. When cauliflower is soft enough, pour out most of the liquid, leaving just a little for moisture and flavor. Mash until creamy like mashed potatoes.

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You can get creative with your seasonings. I like to add Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper and vegan cheese to keep it simple.

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P.S. I am now making it much easier for you to follow my recipes without having to scroll up and down through the images. Hope that helps!

Mini, Smoky Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

19 oz. ground turkey (That’s just the odd, prepackaged amount I bought. I’d highly recommend substituting half the turkey for ground chicken sausage, for more flavor.)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 of a medium onion, diced

1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

1/2 – 2/3 cup quick-oats oatmeal

1 egg

1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)

1 can tomato sauce

a pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. salt (alter to your taste)

generous amount of fresh cracked pepper

ketchup (optional)

You can add seasonings such as basil, oregano, thyme or parsley if you want to add extra flavor.

You don’t have to do this if you want to save time, but I started by sautéing the onions until they started to caramelize, just for some added depth of flavor. In a large bowl, mix together spices. Add the oatmeal, egg, milk, liquid smoke, and mix. I got too excited and threw everything on top of the meat…but then the flavor doesn’t distribute as evenly. Don’t do what I did. Ha. Add the ground turkey to the mixture (and the ground chicken sausage if you choose, which please do), and mix well. Add about 3 tablespoons of the tomato sauce to the meat, and mix in. If for some reason you find that your meat mixture is too wet, you can always add more oatmeal. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.  Press some of the meat mixture into each of the muffin cups, leaving a little bit of room at the top of each cup, to add sauce later. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Add the remaining tomato sauce and/or ketchup to the top of each mini loaf, then cook for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with mashed cauliflower (recipe below).

Mashed Cauliflower

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower, washed

1/4 cup cheese (Trader Joe’s vegan cheese for me!)

1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 cans chicken or vegetable broth

2-3 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp. garlic powder (optional)

Cut a whole head of cauliflower into big chunks, and put in a large pot. Add 2-3 cans of chicken or vegetable broth, garlic and water.  The cauliflower doesn’t have to be completely covered by liquid, but most of it should be.  Cover the pot with a lid to keep moisture in, and boil for about 15 minutes or until soft enough to mash easily with a potato masher. When cauliflower is soft enough, pour out most of the liquid, leaving just a little for moisture and flavor. Mash until creamy like mashed potatoes. You can get creative with your seasonings. I like to add Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper and vegan cheese to keep it simple.

Deviating from Dessert: Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Lentil Stew


Hi. My name is Misty, and I’m a dessertaholic. Since Lent started last Wednesday, I have been dessert-free. This includes all varieties of cake, cookies, pie, pastries, chocolate, candy, ice cream–and even the leftover salted caramel that is sitting in my fridge. It has been 7 days, 11 hours and…about 3 minutes since my last dessert, and I have about…oh…40 days to go. But who’s counting?

I decided to give up dessert for Lent because it was becoming a serious problem. It got to the point where I had to eat it in large quantities every single day. I do believe it is possible to have dessert everyday in a healthy way, but when it comes to dessert, all my portion control discipline goes out the window. Almost every night I would fill a coffee mug with my soy ice cream, top it with some sugary cereal, maybe a dozen or two of dark chocolate chips, then bring it over to the couch to watch TV.

Now, the average person is probably happier on the couch watching TV, and after finishing a bowl of ice cream will continue to lay motionless on the couch. I, on the other hand, have trouble sitting for long periods of time. I am an active person and I like to stay in motion. Novin always gets upset because he can never watch a single show without having to push “pause” at least twice, while I get up to do this, or that. So once I finish my first portion of ice cream, I have no problem building up motivation to get up off the couch…to get more ice cream. And of course I have to top it again with a little more crunchy cereal and a little more chocolate chips—maybe with some salted caramel sauce this time. But wait! I forgot I have some leftover peanut butter chocolate soy ice cream to finish off so I better top it all off with some of that. Yeeeeeeees. Then I end up tossing and turning all night from the sugar overload and wake up sweating. If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll notice this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned indulgent habits.

So you see, giving up dessert for Lent was imperative. And surprisingly, I’m doing just fine so far. Maybe it’s just because I started drinking more. And eating more cheese. It’s too soon to tell….

The only drawback is I am feeling less pressured to work out. After the first 3 days I got on the scale and found I was 5 pounds lighter, so I immediately started slacking. OK, by “slacking” I guess I mean I would run 6 miles instead of 10…but still. It’s slacking to me nevertheless. Last night I decided that no—NO I would not go to the gym. NO I would not go to yoga. Instead, I would stay home in my PJ’s, drink wine, listen to music and cook! And eat! I’m running 18.6 miles on Saturday anyway. I invited my friend Traci over–because cooking isn’t fun if people can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor—and made Cajun shrimp served over polenta, and a sausage lentil stew.

And for “dessert”—I ate an extra slice or two of Ciabatta olive bread to wipe up the leftovers at the bottom of the empty stew pot.

Cajun Shrimp and Polenta

This recipe is adapted from: http://myhusbandcooks.wordpress.com/2006/11/27/shrimp-n-grits-need-i-say-more/

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ cups chopped tomato (I used grape tomatoes, cut in half)

1 to 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (Or you can make your own. I used prepared seasoning then added a few dashes of paprika and cayenne pepper)

1 ¼ cup beer (a light beer works best)

1 pound shrimp

1 to 2 stalks celery, chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 to 2 T butter (I used Smart Balance)

1 to 2 T olive oil

½ tsp red pepper flakes (you don’t have to use if you don’t like a lot of spice)

1 tube prepared polenta (It’s easy!)

1 T cilantro, chopped (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Chop bell pepper, onion, garlic, celery and tomato. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for a minute or two. Add remaining vegetables and saute another minute or two.

Add half of the Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes, and saute for a few more minutes. Push vegetables to the outside of the pan creating a hole in the middle, and add butter to pan. Add beer while gently stiring, and bring to a boil.

I used an Oregon-made lager, Session, made by Full Sail Brewery.

Add shrimp, the remaining Cajun seasoning and lime juice. Let simmer, turning down heat if necessary, and cook about 5 minutes or until shrimp is pink and cooked through. Mix in cilantro at the end of cooking, if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the shrimp are cooking, prepare polenta. Cut tube of polenta into 1-inch slices. In a pan over medium heat, drizzled with olive oil or nonstick spray, fry polenta slices for about two minutes, or until they begin to turn slightly golden. Flip over, and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Let cook another two to three minutes.

 Top polenta slices with the Cajun shrimp and sauce.

 

Sausage Lentil Stew

This was originally supposed to be a split pea soup, until I realized I ran out of split peas. Red lentils work just as great.

2 to 2 ½ cups red lentils or split peas

About 6 cups chicken broth

About 2 cups water

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cups carrots, medium diced

1 ½ sausages, chopped into small pieces (I used beer sausage, but kielbasa would work well too)

4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium potato unpeeled, medium diced

1/8 cup olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp fresh thyme

½ tsp paprika

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

1 to 2 T of red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Sour cream for garnish (optional)

 Chop onion, carrots, garlic, potato and sausage.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and saute until soft. Add carrots, potato and garlic and saute another few minutes.

Add split peas, chicken broth, water and sausage. Bring to a boil, then simmer until lentils are soft.

Imported red lentils. I get these at a Middle Eastern store. They get creamier than regular red lentils.

Add oregano, thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper and ½ of the red wine vinegar or lemon juice, and continue to simmer until stew is creamy, stiring occasionally. If the soup is too thick add more water or broth. I let this cook about 2 hours to really give it time for the flavors to come out, but you don’t have to cook it that long. Before serving, add salt, pepper and mix in remaining red wine vinegar or lemon juice.

Top with a dollop of sour cream, serve with a slice or two of crusty bread, and enjoy!

Take me back to the Dominican: Pollo guisado y arroz con habichuelas


Coming back to reality after two weeks of vacation at all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic has been difficult. I’m back at work, traffic sucks, I have to plan my meals and wash my own dishes, it’s freezing outside, and it’s always dark.

I know the holidays are upon us, which offers a different kind of warmth than a sunny, tropical paradise, and that I do look forward to. I enjoy the things at home during the holidays that make me feel warm and fuzzy–like being cozy next to the fireplace, staring at the Christmas tree lights, drinking hot chocolate, listening to happy Christmas songs, spending time with family and friends and eating comfort food. Oh, comfort food! Nothing feels more warm and fuzzy than comfort food.

For dinner last night, I decided to make a dish that brought me back to the Dominican Republic, but also made me feel comforted and warm–so warm in fact, that I had to remove layers and turn off the fireplace.

Pollo Guisado is a traditional Dominican dish, one that I ate several times during my visit. It’s like a chicken stew with vegetables and served with arroz con habichuelas, or rice and beans.  I found many variations of the Pollo Guisado recipe, which is also a Puerto Rican dish–some using adobo, some not. Since I like to “healthify” my food, and all of the recipes I found call for “sazon” seasoning and chicken bouillion cubes containing MSG, I decided not to use it. I realize this may have changed the true flavor of the dish and eliminated its secret ingredient. But in the name of health, I think it was worth it, and it still tasted great. (Next time I’ll experiment, using the adobo other recipes called for. )

This is a stick-to-your ribs kind of meal that can make you feel one of two ways:

1. You might want to go put on some stretchy pants to lay down and nap for a few hours.

2. You might want to wait an hour to digest then run 20 miles from the carb and protein punch.

Either way, this meal doesn’t fool around.

The following recipe is adapted from thatsdominican.com. Visit the following link if you want to follow the exact recipe: http://www.thatsdominican.com/dr/our-food/pollo-guisado-stewed-chicken.

Ingredients for Pollo Guisado

1 pound chicken thighs or legs (I used boneless chicken thighs, but bone-in is the traditional way)

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 can low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon oregano

juice of 2 lemons

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 small red onion chopped into fine strips or rings

1 teaspoon of mashed garlic

4 plum tomatoes cut into quarters (I used a can of diced tomatoes)

2 medium potatoes, cubed

4 tablespoons manzanilla olives, cut in half

1 Large carrot, chopped

chopped cilantro, to garnish (optional)

Instructions:

In a bowl mix the chicken, oregano, onion, lemon juice, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

In a pot, heat up the oil over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken. Add onions and saute for a few minutes. Add tomato paste and mix in well. Add the remaining ingredients, making sure that there is enough liquid to cover the chicken and potatoes so they will cook completely. If you need more liquid, add more chicken broth. Cover with a lid, and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Turn down heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, up to two hours. The longer cooking time really allows all the flavors to come out. This tastes even better the next day! Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in chopped cilantro if you would like. Serve with arroz con habichuelas and sliced avocados with lemon juice.

Ingredients for Arroz con Habichuelas

About 1-2 cups dried red beans or kidney beans (although any bean would taste great)

1 onion, finely diced

1 small can tomato sauce

3-4 strips bacon, finely chopped

2 cans of chicken broth

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp chili powder

2-3 T manzanilla olives, chopped

1 T white vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

fresh cilantro (optional)

cooked rice (To serve beans over. I used brown rice because it’s healthier)

Cook bacon in a pan and saute with onions until the bacon starts to crisp. Throw all ingredients (except salt) in a slow cooker and cook on low until beans are soft (I let mine cook while I was at work all day). Before serving, take a potato masher and mash the beans until they are thick and creamy, with chunks still left in it. Add salt to taste. Stir in some chopped cilantro, and serve beans over rice.

Buen provecho!

Mountain of habichuelas

My first taste of pollo guisado.

See why I'm so torn about being back from vacation?

See? Seeeeee? The water! The sun!

Although...it's just not the same standing in front of a Christmas tree in shorts and flip flops.

Take me baaaaaack! OK I'm done.

Baked ‘Tatoe Chips


I came home from work one night last week and saw Novin slicing away at an incredibly large russet potato. When I found out he was making potato chips, I was skeptical. He had made baked potato chips from scratch before, but they turned out to be nothing more than very thin, oven-roasted potatoes.

Somehow, this time he nailed it. They are light, crispy, slightly salted, and everything that a potato chip should be–but not fried in grease! Since we inherited a large bag of Oregon-grown potatoes from a friend, I’ve eaten these darn things almost every day this week, per my request. I’ve had poor Novin hand-slicing and slaving by the oven every night–except Tuesday he turned me down–so I had to double up on the dark chocolate chips to satisfy my cravings.

Well, we used up all our russet potatoes and now there are only red potatoes left. And yes, out of desperation, tonight I will be experimenting with red potatoes to make chips to eat with my pulled Spicy BBQ chicken sandwiches…more on that later.

This recipe should make enough chips for 2-4 people, depending on how big of a chip monster you are.

Ingredients:

1 giant russet potato

salt to taste

PAM (non-stick) spray

Slice potato into super thin slices like so:

If you have a mandoline to slice the potatoes so they are all the same size, you are lucky! We do it the manual way...

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

Novin smiles while he works.

We use a silicone baking mat to help prevent sticking. Sprinkle salt on the sheet/mat. Arrange potato slices on baking sheet so none are touching. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they are slightly brown and crisp. Make sure to check on chips every 5 to 10 minutes as some will bake faster than others and need to be removed.

I love salt and vinegar chips, so we mixed some white vinegar with a pinch of salt and dipped each chip as we ate. But if you want to be professional about it, pick up some vinegar powder and sprinkle on the chips. Enjoy!

Black Bean and Corn Salad (Pair with Lazy Bum’s Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas)


1/2 medium onion, very finely chopped

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

2 limes

drizzle olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Your favorite hot sauce, optional

Mix together onion, beans, tomatoes, corn and cilantro. Squeeze juice of two limes over salad. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add some of your favorite hot sauce if you like a little kick. Serve with Lazy Bum’s Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas.

“Fire-butt Spanish Rice”…don’t ask, just give it a try ;)


PJ’s housewarming party…continued…with guest chef BJ for this side dish.

You might not want to ask why I titled this recipe “Fire-butt Spanish Rice.” The name should say it all.

BJ likes to cook food with a lot of heat. She puts Tabasco sauce on EVERYTHING, to the point where you feel offended. Was the food I just cooked so bad that you had to mask the taste by burning your tastebuds off, just to get the food down your throat, BJ? OK well maybe I’m over dramatizing.

I like this recipe as-is, with a little pain, but it will taste just as good if you cut down on the hot stuff. For this recipe BJ spared the Tabasco and used ghost chile sauce…the hottest pepper in the world. The ingredient amount below will feed a large group of people as a side dish (we fed 10-15 with some leftover). Just scale down ingredients for a smaller portion. This also works well as a main dish.

Ingredients

4 cups cooked rice

olive oil, just enough to coat the bottom of your pot or pan

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 bushel cilantro, roughly chopped

15 oz. can tomato sauce

1 cup frozen corn kernels

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp. cumin

about a teaspoon-ish or more of chili powder

about a teaspoon-ish or more of cayenne pepper

A few glugs of hot taco sauce (about 2-3 T to be safe)

About half a tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce (BJ used Holy Jolokia ghost chile sauce, which can be purchased on amazon.com)

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and saute a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add cooked rice and mix well. Add tomato sauce and taco sauce and mix well into rice.

The little childrens like to help.

Aww sowwy Fawkes, this is too spicy for the puppy..

Add black beans, corn and spices. The last few minutes of cooking add cilantro. Enjoy! If you still don’t know why it’s called “Fire-butt Spanish Rice,” well…you will tomorrow. 🙂

Baked Jalapeno Falafel


Last night I was just not in the mood to make dinner. At all. The last week I’ve been straining to find motivation…for basically everything. Work, cleaning, reading, exercising, cooking…I think I’ve been using up my last drops of motivation for marathon training, and my body is saying it needs a break.  But with a spendy vacation coming up, and less than 16 days until the Portland Marathon, I thought it would be a healthier, more economical option to just suck it up and have a home-cooked meal. It took every ounce of my being to get this dinner on the table-er–couch, but I did it. And surprise, surprise, I’m glad I did, because this meal was packed with protein and fiber, and just eating it gave me a little more energy…and motivation to wash the dishes afterward.

Ingredients

1 can garbanzo beans

1 egg

1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

1 small jalapeno (or 2 or 3 if you really want some heat)

1 T lemon juice

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp-1 tsp salt, to your taste

pepper, to taste

cayenne, to taste

1 tsp baking powder

drizzle of olive oil (1 to 2 tsp)

1/2 cup fresh parsley

Yes, the mixture will look a little green.

In a bowl, mash beans with a potato masher or fork.

In a blender or food processor, puree onion, jalapeno, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Add to mashed beans and mix well.

In a small bowl, beat together (with a fork) spices, baking powder, egg and olive oil. Add to bean mixture and mix well. Add bread crumbs and mix. The mixture should hold together well to form patties. Form into 2- or 3″ patties.

It sure doesn't LOOK like falafel, but it is a whole lot healthier and packed with flavor.

This falafel will not be the same as in Mediterranean restaurants because it is not deep fried. It will have a soft texture. To make it healthier, I pan fry falafel over medium-high heat (with just non-stick spray or a little Smart Balance) on each side until browned. Then bake for about 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Best served with hummus or tzatziki and pita, on the couch in PJ’s watching Modern Family. Enjoy!