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!

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!

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.