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!

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.

Spicy Vegetarian Lentil and Red Bean Chili


I just realized that every dish I’ve blogged about (besides dessert) so far has had meat in it.  In reality, Novin and I like to eat vegetarian meals at least once or twice a week to avoid overdosing on the red stuff. Plus, it’s said that cutting down on meat-eating can help the environment, promote weight loss, heart health, save money…and the list goes on. When we do eat meat, we buy the locally raised, grass-fed “happy cows and chickens,” as my uncle likes to say.

Since the weather turned fall-like basically overnight, I thought a hot bowl of chili-vegetarian chili-sounded good. Not to mention, super super easy since I could throw everything in the slow cooker (my best friend) and forget about it.

You can’t really screw up this recipe. When in doubt, just add more spices or tomato sauce. If it’s too thick for your taste, add a little water. As usual, I didn’t measure everything out exactly, just kept adding spices until it suited my taste. If you don’t have the patience for dried beans to cook, go ahead and substitute a can or two of beans. Since we ran out of tomato sauce, I used fresh, chopped tomatoes.

Everything thrown into the slow cooker. Ready for cooking!

Ingredients

1/2 cup dried green lentils

1/2 cup dried red beans (you can really use any bean you want)

1 can diced tomatoes (or 2-3 large fresh tomatoes)

1 can tomato sauce

1 bell pepper, any color

4 cups low-sodium broth (I used chicken, but if you are a true vegetarian use vegetable broth)

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

garlic powder 1-2 tsp.

oregano 1-2 tsp.

onion powder 1-2 tsp.

a pinch of cayenne, or more if you like heat

chili powder, about 2 T

ancho chile powder 1-2 tsp. (optional; I like a lot of heat in my chili)

1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (in a can), pour in a little of the sauce too

1-2 T ground cumin

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1/2- 1 cup zucchini (because I STILL have zucchini relentlessly coming out of the garden)

vegetarian soy Chorizo sausage (optional, but really adds flavor)

salt, to taste

Throw all ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave for work, or put in night before and refrigerate until you have to leave in the morning. Turn on low heat…and come home to dinner! (Mine cooked for about 10 hours.) Serve with a piece of whole wheat toast. (I like my toast with a little Smart Balance Light butter spread and a sprinkle of garlic powder for a light garlic toast.)

Makes 4-6 servings.

Mom Does it Best: Filipino Pancit and Thai Chicken Larb


Chef Mom!

Labor Day is supposed to be a holiday away from laboring, but in my family, we see it as an entire free day to cook! So for this blog, I thought it appropriate to feature none other than the best–my mom–as my next “featured guest chef.”

And when she cooks– she really cooks. Nevermind the fact that there were only 7 people to feed, she made enough food to feed a small country.

So I spent the holiday at my mom’s house, relearning how to make a few of her most famous dishes (I always forget!). She made chicken caldereta and pancit, both traditional Filipino dishes; chicken larb, a Thai salad; a spaghetti squash and carrot salad with a spicy vinegar dressing, a shrimp and vegetable dish and some sort of brothy soup…which were basically ignored because we were overwhelmed with everything else on the table.

Recreating her recipes isn’t exactly easy since she doesn’t measure out her ingredients, just tastes as she goes…so I did my best writing out her ingredient amounts…just be sure to taste as you cook!

Thai Chicken Larb

2 chicken breasts

1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced

2 fresh Thai chilis

2-3 limes

1 tsp oyster sauce

3 sprigs mint

1/2 onion, sliced thin

2 T toasted rice, ground

cracked pepper, to taste

1 9 oz bag sprouts

Instructions:

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Put on broiler pan and broil until no longer pink in the middle. Let chicken cool, then finely chop. Add to a large bowl.

Toast rice over medium low heat until browned. Be careful not to burn. Using a mortar and pestle (or food processor), finely grind rice. Add to bowl. Finely chop green onion, Thai chilies, and mint. Add to bowl.

Add oyster sauce, squeezed lime juice, sprouts and cracked pepper. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Salad can easily be adjusted to your taste by using more or less lime and oyster sauce. Serve with lettuce or cabbage leaves to wrap up chicken larb, and enjoy!

Pancit (Bihon)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 onion, chopped

canola oil (enough to fill the bottom of the wok)

about 4 cups water

1 package pancit bihon mix (can be found at Asian groceries, see photo below)

3-5 T soy sauce

1- 14 oz package rice noodles (package might say “rick sticks”, can be found at Asian groceries)

3-4 cups thinly sliced cabbage

1 shredded carrot (for color)

1 large chicken breast

salt

pepper

1 egg, for garnish

cilantro, for garnish (optional)

green onion, for garnish (optional)

Boil chicken breast in the 4 cups of water with salt and pepper until cooked through. Let cool. Shred chicken into small pieces. (Reserve water for noodles later)

Add oil to wok. When hot, add onion and garlic; saute for one minute. Add shredded chicken and saute for another minute or two. Add water that chicken was boiled in. Add pancit mix (shown in photo) and soy sauce. Push chicken to one side of wok then add noodles to liquid.

When noodles start to soften in the liquid, cut with scissors to shorten. Mix everything together until noodles are soft and fully absorb all of the liquid. Add cabbage and carrot, mix for another minute or two or until cabbage just barely begins to soften but is still crunchy.

Cooking for us is a family affair.

In a small pan, fry the egg. Slice thinly, and garnish the noodles with the egg slices. Serve with lemon wedges. (I like to squirt about 3-4 lemon slices on my own serving until the noodles are drowning in lemon juice, yum-o-yum. Not everyone will like it like that though, so just serve the lemon on the side)

Good luck!

Novin likes to sneak samples…

Salmon Patties and Baked Zucchini Fries


Today’s recipe was made by my boyfriend Novin, who is my first featured “guest chef” of many more to come…

Salmon patties are one of only two ways Novin will eat salmon. Up until a few months ago he refused to even taste one bite of salmon that I promised was delicious, no matter how it was prepared. I think he realized just how darn healthy salmon is and began experimenting with ways to make it “not taste fishy.”

Well, I think he was successful, and I ask him to make these on a regular basis. I think even fish-haters would like these. They’re simple enough to serve on a weeknight, but impressive enough to serve for dinner guests too. Thanks, Novin, for a great dinner!

Ingredients

1 pound coho salmon fillet, shredded

1 egg

1 T buffalo wing sauce (he used a spicy garlic wing sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings)

about ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs (seasoned bread crumbs add good flavor)

½ cup cornmeal

dash paprika

dash of dried dill

dash of pepper

dash of garlic salt

dash of cayenne

canola oil for frying

Shred salmon as demonstrated in photo below.

Add egg, seasonings and breadcrumbs. Mix all ingredients together well. (If the mixture is too moist, you can add more breadcrumbs. You want the mixture to be able to hold its shape when formed into a patty but not dry.) Form into patties, and coat each side with cornmeal.

Fry patties in a skillet (cast iron works great) on medium heat in a thin layer of oil, 2-3 minutes on each side, or until done in the middle.

Serve with lemon slices, or top with tartar sauce or this dill aioli:

http://www.grouprecipes.com/32176/mini-crab-cakes-with-lemon-dill-aioli.html

Makes about 2 servings. Enjoy!

Baked Zucchini Fries

Since we still have loads of zucchini coming out of our garden—and of course Novin doesn’t care for zucchini—I have to come up with ways to “hide” the zucchini in dishes or cover up the taste with sauces. I decided to try out baked zucchini fries, which I thought would go well with the salmon patties. If he didn’t like them, well…more fries for me I guess.

Now, Novin is the kind of guy who will at least try anything once. But to my surprise, he didn’t stop at just one fry! He actually seemed to enjoy them! Success! His only comment was, “They need more salt.” Easy fix.

For this recipe I didn’t measure out everything, just estimated. If you want to kick up the flavor of the fries, add cayenne pepper and paprika to the cornmeal/flour mix.

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini

about ¼ cup flour

about ¼ cup cornmeal

about ¼ tsp salt

about ¼ tsp pepper

about ¼ tsp dried basil

1 egg white

marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (I used the toaster oven)

Slice zucchini into 1-inch wedges. In a bowl, coat zucchini slices with egg white.

In a ziplock bag, add cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper and basil (and cayenne and paprika if you choose). Put zucchini in the ziplock bag and shake until pieces are completed coated. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. Arrange zucchini pieces on baking sheet so none are touching. Spray zucchini pieces with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip pieces over and bake for another 10 minutes. For the last 5 minutes or so, turn on broiler and broil until pieces start to lightly brown.

Serve with marinara sauce to dip.

Makes 2-3 servings. These would also make a great appetizer for dinner guests, just double or triple recipe.

Lamb Ragu with Pumpkin Zucchini


With half a human head-sized zucchini left after baking the zucchini bread, it’s time to make dinner. Tomorrow I’m starting my birthday morning with a 13-mile training run, so immediately pasta comes to mind. Except…I happen to have a tube of polenta in the pantry…which sounds a little more gourmet. I also happen to have Oregon-grown lamb from SuDan Farms in the freezer, and garden fresh tomatoes. I like to use local ingredients whenever I can…so it looks like my next meal is going to be pretty darn close to completely locally grown. Not to mention, super quick and easy! Lamb ragu with zucchini, it is! The following recipe makes 2-3 servings, but you can easily double the recipe. Lamb Ragu is also a very versatile recipe; you can add carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms or any other veggies you like. Instead of polenta, you can also serve over whole wheat pasta, quinoa or brown rice.

1/2 pound ground lamb

2 tsp. olive oil

3 roma tomatoes, chopped

1 shallot, finely sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups zucchini, chopped (doesn’t have to be pumpkin zucchini)

1/2 tube prepared polenta

1 can tomato sauce

1/4 cup red wine

a few mint leaves (or basil if you prefer)

parsley to garnish

salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

dash cayenne pepper

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

In a large pan, add one tsp. of olive oil and saute ground lamb until browned on medium-high heat. Add shallot and saute until soft. Add tomatoes until they begin to soften. Add zucchini and garlic, saute a few minutes. Add can of tomato sauce and red wine, bring to a boil. Turn down heat after a few minutes and simmer another 5-10 minutes. Add cayenne, salt, pepper and mint leaves.

Cut the half tube of polenta into 1-inch slices. Cook according to package directions, or saute on each side in 1 tsp. olive oil for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat.

Pour ragu over a few slices of polenta, and garnish with chopped parsley and parmesan if you like. Serve with a simple salad.