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Spring Lentil Soup

Welcoming Spring with a warm lentil and mushroom soup.  It was 50 degrees here in New Hampshire today, but the ground is still blanketed with snow.  In the early days of a new season, we are invited to lean in.  Transitioning is often more comfortable when we work with food to aide the shift.

So, a pot of beautiful Spring Lentil Soup is in order for our family table today.  Rich with immune supportive mushrooms, this soup could be had in the depth of winter (but I would make it thicker and more hearty with the addition of white beans).  

To make it:
Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot and saute~
1 large onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander

Add ~
1 cup each diced celery and carrot
2 cups crimini or button mushrooms, minced
1 cup green lentils
6 cups vegetable or mushroom stock

Simmer until the lentils are tender and the broth is rich... about 45 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a salad.  On our table tonight -- torn Romaine and Kale with caramelized yellow beets and maple walnuts  -- its' about the most perfect pairing.  


Sprouted Buckwheat Salad and Red Lentil Burgers

I've had a few recipes hanging around that I keep meaning to post, so today I am just going to put them out there for you.  Pictures to follow when I have more time! Raw buckwheat is a new addition to my diet.  I tried buckwheat flour a while back and found it to be a very strong flavor… and one that I don’t care for.  So, much to my delight, the mild, nutty flavor of raw buckwheat is a welcome addition to the list of good grains. Sprouted Buckwheat Salad 1 cup raw buckwheat, soaked for 4-8 hours, drained and sprouted for up to 2 days 1 cup raw sunflower seeds 1 pepper, any color, diced 2 cups white beans, homemade or canned (rinse them well if canned) 1 cup cilantro, minced Vinaigrette Juice of 1 ½ lemons 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 shallot, minced 2 cloves of garlic, minced pinch of salt several grinds of pepper Combine all ingredients in a pretty bowl.  The flavors get stronger as the salad sits, so allow for a few hours of fridge time before serving if you have time.    Red Lentil Burgers 1 ½ cups red lentils 2 carrots (about 1 cup) 1 leek (about 1 cup) ½ cup almonds 1 tsp chipotle powder or 1 chipotle pepper with a bit of adobo (from a can) 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp smoked paprika 1 Tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos 1 Tbsp olive oil ¼ cup tomato paste ¾ cup water Let’s heat things up!  Get your oven on to 400 degrees.  If you have baking stones, set them on the lowest oven rack so they get screaming hot.  If not, prep a baking sheet with a piece of parchment or lightly oiled foil. Put lentils into food processor and pulse until they become coarse flour.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until combined into a slightly chunky dough/paste.  You will need to scrape the sides of the processor at least once to ensure that no bits of veg are left unblitzed.  Give a tiny taste and adjust seasoning if you need to. I use my ice cream scooper to get even scoops of batter.  Drop them on your prepared sheet or baking stone and flatten slightly to about a 3 inch diameter and ¼ inch thick.  They won’t spread, so you can get them a bit close, but it’s best to leave some room so you can flip them.  Bake for 10 minutes and then lower heat to 350, flip them and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve on your favorite gluten free bun or on a bed of greens.


Lentil Sloppy Joes v.2

Lentil Sloppy Joes
Simplified and modified from version 1, but just as yummy!  Because I am in love with the new bottle of pomegranate molasses on my shelf, I had to incorporate it in this recipe.  It makes perfect sense because the flavor is both sharp and sweet.  Start to finish about an hour.  Try this if you want a warm, richly layered and flavorful, spice laden meal.  Serves 6-8.  Using you food processor or mad knife skills, mince the following: 1 large onion, minced 4 cloves garlic, minced 8 oz Portobello mushrooms, minced 1 large green pepper, minced (organic if possible)
Add the minced veggies to a large stockpot in which you’ve warmed a tsp of olive oil.  Stir the veg while they brown and soften, about 10 minutes.  They will become super fragrant. [caption id="attachment_354" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="minced veg for sloppy joes"]minced veg for sloppy joes[/caption] Blend: 4 medool dates, pitted 1 can diced fire roasted tomato 1/2 cup Annies Organic Tomato Ketchup Blend these ingredients in the food processor until smooth.  Add the mixture into the pot and stir to combine. Add: 1 cup brown lentils (+ 1/2 cup if you don't use the red lentils below) 1/2 cup red lentils (optional, but they thicken the sauce in a way that the brown lentils don't) 3 cups water 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses 1 tsp chipotle chili powder 2 Tbsp smoked paprika 2 Tbsp cumin 1 Tbsp cinnamon 1 Tbsp cocoa powder Stir the pot and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are till tender and the liquid is absorbed.  [caption id="attachment_353" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Lentil Sloppy Joes v2"]Lentil Sloppy Joes v2[/caption] If you're going old school, split the roll of your choice and toast both sides in a dry skillet.  Then slather some vegan mayo on the toasty pieces, top with a scoop of lentils and a piece of rice cheese or daiya shreds.  You can forego the bun and serve your sloppy lentil ragout on a plate with a side of steamed broccoli and a few big handfuls of fresh greens.  You can also pair a scoop of this goodness with a bowl of nutty brown rice or fluffy herbed quinoa or as a topper for polenta.  I can easily see stretching leftovers with the addition of some smoky black beans and corn on the cob.  Whatever you do, do it with love and enjoy every bite knowing that you are fueling your body well!  Make the meal even better --- don't forget your greens!


Sloppy Joes

[caption id="attachment_283" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Lentil Sloppy Joe with Vegan Cheese and Steamed Broccoli"]Lentil Sloppy Joe[/caption] I have fond memories of the sweet and tangy sloppy joe sauce that my dad made.  It was the stuff of finger licking legend.  Though I don't make my sloppy joes with ground meat, I love the hearty bite that the lentils give and the earthy balance of the portobello mushrooms.  Not to brag, but I think my sloppy joe sauce is good enough to earn a place in my children's culinary memory and in your recipe file.  Only time will tell!  But if clean plates and requests for seconds are any indication, I think I'm on the right track! The real key to incredible flavor for this meal is the smoked paprika... click on it in the ingredients list and you can order it from Penzey's if you don't have it in your cabinet. Enjoy! Lentil Sloppy Joes This multi step process is worth the effort.  You’ll be spending about an hour in the kitchen to get this done, but the batch is HUGE and makes plenty of leftovers that you can package up and bump into the freezer for a meal next week and the week after! Using you food processor or mad knife skills, mince the following: 1 large onion, minced 2 cloves garlic, minced 4 carrots, minced 4 celery stalks, minced 10 oz Portobello mushrooms, minced Add the minced veggies to a large stockpot in which you’ve warmed a tsp of olive oil.  Stir the veg while they brown and soften, about 10 minutes.  They will become super fragrant. Add: 2 cups lentils * 6-8 cups water *(I usually use brown or green lentils, but you can use red lentils too.  Reduce your liquid by a cup if you use red lentils.  They cook faster, so watch your time too!) Stir the pot and simmer for 40 minutes until the lentils are till tender and the liquid is absorbed.  (If your liquid is not absorbed after 40 minutes try the quinoa/millet add in noted in the next step.)  Stir in: 1 cup uncooked millet or quinoa (optional, adds nutritional value & helps if your lentils are liquidy!) 7 oz jar organic tomato paste 1 cup tomato sauce 1 cup ketchup (or a 2nd cup of tomato sauce) 1 Tbsp chipotle chili powder 1 Tbsp oregano 3 Tbsp smoked paprika (This is the key to fabulous flavor!!!) 1 Tbsp cumin 1 Tbsp cinnamon 2 Tbsp prepared mustard (I used a grainy mustard that has a nice vinegar kick) 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar Sweeten: 4 medool dates, pitted OR 1 Tbsp brown sugar (I prefer my sugars to be from whole foods, but if you don’t have dates then brown sugar will do) If you've added the quinoa or millet your pot will need about 10 -15 minutes more to simmer while those seeds absorb their liquids.  If you're not using the seeds just proceed.  Remove 1 cup and blend it in the food processor with the 4 pitted dates until smooth.  Add back into the pot and stir to combine. Serve your sloppy lentil ragout on a roll of your choice or just on a plate with a side of steamed broccoli and some fresh greens. [caption id="attachment_284" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Lentil Sloppy Joes without the bun are an easy Gluten Free Vegan meal!"]Lentil Sloppy Joes without the bun[/caption] Leftovers are even better.  You can also take half of your leftovers and season them with more chipotle chile and some diced tomato to make a good taco filling.  Top with fresh guac, crisp lettuce and sliced peppers and you’re on your way to another easy meal. ***Check out Lentil Sloppy Joes v2 by clicking here!


Chai Spice Blend

I get on flavor kicks, in case you haven't noticed.  Indian spices and chai are particularly appealing to me in the winter.  I have a love affair with heat, truth be told, and I'll do just about anything to avoid being cold.  I'm not at all ashamed to tell you that I warm up my pjs with my hairdryer, believe the best gift I've ever received (besides my children) is my amazing heating blanket and I use those nifty handwarming pouches all the time.  Now you know.  The warming spices in my Chai Blend are not only tasty, but they are also comforting and helpful to those like me who enjoy warmth. The Chai Spice Blend I've shared with you before is something I pretty much have on hand all the time.  I will toss a teaspoon into a banana bread recipe just as quickly as I'll use it to punch up the flavor of carrot soup.  It makes a quick curry sauce with an added pinch of turmeric, a dash of saracha and a smash of garlic.  There's so much that this blend can do to make your day more interesting!  I figured since I use it so much that I should tell you a bit more.  May my experiences with Chai be fodder for your culinary experiments! Chai Spice Blend (Makes about ½ cup) 2 Tbsp of each of the following spices, ground:  Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon 2 tsp of each of the following, ground: Cloves, Nutmeg, Allspice, Black pepper and Vanilla Powder Mix the ingredients until combined.  Store in a tin or a spice jar.    Okay, an example for you: The last of the mango trio I bought was sitting on my counter this morning starting to look a bit sad.  It was now or never for this guy, so he hit the cutting board.  Mango aren't native to NH, of course, but it's hard for me to resist their musky orange flesh.  I buy local as much as possible, but in cases like this with mango I choose to use what's available.  The fruit is already on my grocer's shelf and needs someone to use it... so that person is sometimes me.  I know this perpetuates the problem because if I didn't buy it they might not order it, etc, etc.  I know.  But when a girl needs a mango, a girl needs a mango.  Maybe when I'm older I'll plant myself somewhere tropical and surround myself with coconuts and mangoes and I will sing every day, grow my hair wildly long again and be blissfully warm ever after.  Until then, I will buy my mangoes and not apologize for my action. Right, so the mango peeled and cubed sat in my breakfast bowl.  He was ready to go and so was I, but there's this bowl of chai spice on my counter and I'm not afraid to use it.  The kids had already stirred a bit into their yogurt and I could smell the ginger... it was a natural progression! Spiced Mango 1 ripe mango, peeled, cut off the pit and cubed 1 tsp chai spice, more or less to your liking [caption id="attachment_256" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Spiced Mango"]Spiced Mango[/caption]   How else can you use the Chai Spice Blend?  Here are some ideas to get you started:
  1. Buy a small carton of soy or coconut creamer and tip in a few Tablespoons of the spice blend.  Put the cap back on and shake.  Leave this in your fridge overnight, at least, so the spices permeate the creamer.  You can do this with any milk or milk alternative.  The longer you let the spices hang out in the liquid the more intense the flavor. Use the Chai creamer with your next cup of black tea for a spicy kick.  If you don't like gritty tea just pour your cuppa through a strainer before drinking. 
  2. Add a teaspoon or more to your favorite banana bread batter.
  3. Slice some bananas and toss with chai spice.  Give them a quick warm up in a saute pan with a little knob of Earth Balance or coconut oil, then drizzle with agave or maple syrup and enjoy warm, creamy, spiced banana. --- A splash of rum and fresh coconut curls make this dish into a real party for the over 21 crowd!
  4. Chai spiced hot cocoa is exceptional.  Add a teaspoon of the spice into your favorite mix or homeblend.  I think the dark vegan chocolate and cacao options are a stunning match for chai spices.  The combination makes me think of Mexican moles (mol-eh's, not the little critters that burrow in the ground!)
  5. Sprinkle Chai spices over yogurt and fruit for a warming morning treat.
  6. Add chai spice into a batch of garlicky lentils.  Toss in a pinch of turmeric and a hit of saracha. 
  7. Warm a bit of coconut oil and toss some raw cashews to get them coated.  Then sprinkle the nuts with 1-2 tsp of chai spices and shuffle them around so they're well dressed.  Let them dry on a baking sheet and then snack on them!
  8. Pulse equal amounts of dates and nuts in your food processor.  Add Chai Spice to suit your taste.  Roll into small balls, coat with shredded dried coconut and enjoy as a snack.
Post a comment and let me know how you're using Chai Spices... I can't wait to hear what you come up with! Share


Garlic Lentil Immune Boost Soup

Seems like everyone and their mother has the sniffles and sneezes these January days.  Truth be told, I woke up this morning knowing that my body is fighting off some little germ.  I eat really minimally when I'm not feeling 100%.  I like to give my body the opportunity to focus energy on healing and strengthening my immune system rather than on digesting.  Ever wonder why we lose our hunger when we're sick?  It's a signal to hunker down and rest so we can regain balance.  Dr. Joel Fuhrman goes into this topic in his book Fasting and Eating for Health.  Fasting is really misunderstood in the Western world.  As with all of Dr. Fuhrman's books, I think that this should be required reading for anyone interested in healthy living and anyone interested in researching ways to approach balanced health without  having to rely on drugs and remedies that attempt to hide the symptoms of disease rather than promoting resolution at the source of the disease. Right, enough of that for the minute.  I really want to share this soup recipe with you because it is an example of something that we can do to support our health in a simple nutrient dense way.  Whats even better is that this is a hearty, earthy soup that we can serve anytime. Why these ingredients?  Well, what I've learned over the years is that there are some super immune boosting foods that are truly helpful when we're battling the old cold.  Most of the players in this pot should be familiar to you.  The newbie is likely astragalus or milk vetch.  The root is the part of this plant that we're interested in using.  It is popular in Chinese herbal medicine and is known for its ability to stimulate immune function and fighting infection... respiratory infection in particular (the main reason I'm using it in this pot of soup.)  I also use it to make tea and sprinkle on things that can take a little earthy dust.  On it's own, you'll find it to be a pale greenish powder that is a little bit sweet and a little bit earthy.  I encourage you to research herbs before you use them.  If in doubt about herb safety for you and your health situation, please connect with an herbalist or practitioner who can advise you specifically. Garlic and onion are also known for stimulating white blood cells and boosting immune function.  The reason I went a bit wild with the garlic in this soup is because of the immune focus.  If you're not fighting off a sickness and want to cut back on the garlic you can adjust to suit your tastes.  I'll say that my 2 little boys each had 2nd helpings of this garlicky version... so you should know that the garlic isn't at all offensive or sharp. Millet is rich in vitamin E.  The carrots, squash and kale bring beta carotene goodness.  Lentils add zinc.  All in all, we're talking about a pot of good for us goodness here. Immune boosting Garlic Lentil Soup Garlic Lentil Soup 1 onion, diced 6 cloves of garlic, rough chopped 2 celery stalks, finely chopped 3 carrots, rough chunked 1 lb butternut squash, diced (if you can’t get fresh squash try frozen!) 1 Tbsp astragalus (mountain rose herbs is where I get my bulk herbs) 4 leaves kale 1/2 cup brown lentils ½ cup millet 3 cups cooked white beans (homemade or 1 large can, rinsed and drained) 8 cups water or homemade stock 1 tablespoon miso (I like Golden Millet Miso) salt and pepper to taste What you need: stock pot; Vitamix, food processor, stick blender or elbow grease! Let’s start by get our foundational flavors in the pot.  Saute your onion, garlic and celery in a bit of the broth until tender and fragrant. While that’s working for you, add the carrots, squash, astragalus powder and kale to your vitamix or food processor with a few cups of broth.  Whiz these guys until smooth.  If you don’t have a machine that can do this using raw veg my recommendation is to cook the carrots, squash and kale in the broth in a separate pot until they are soft, then puree with a stick blender of mash well with a fork or potato masher and then add to the onions, garlic and celery. Once the veggies are pureed we’re going to add them to the onions, garlic and celery.  The puree is an earthy color that is a greeny orangey brown.  It’s not going to win a beauty pagent, but it is going to taste good! Let’s stir in the lentils, millet, beans and remaining stock.  Once everyone is in the pot, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes until the lentils are cooked but not mushy. To finish things up, you’re going to take about ½ cup of the hot soup out of the pot and put it in a small bowl with the miso paste.  Mix the paste into the soup until it is well incorporated, then add the miso and soup mixture into the soup pot and stir to combine.  Before serving, taste the soup and adjust seasoning as needed with a bit of salt and pepper.


Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce, Act 3

Have I mentioned how much I like a good leftover?  I'm not joking.  Today I am looking at the 3rd and final act for the batch of Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce that I made the other day.  I'm thinking of using it as a soup base, though the idea of adding a bit of this workhorse into some white bean puree for a spicy white bean dip is weighing on my mind. Since we have a snow storm on the way I am declaring the soup idea the winner!  Having a pot of soup on hand is a good thing when snow is a-comin!  In the event that we need to get all frontier minded and hunker down, I know that I can reheat soup in the cast iron pot on the wood stove (and I swear it will taste 10 times better coming out of that pot than anything else!)
Here we go:
Act 3 Soup
(makes about 8 big bowls of soup)Act 3 soup, thick with rice and lentil
2.5 cups Raw Spicy Tomato Sauce 12 cups water 2 cups brown rice (not cooked) 1/2 cup brown lentils (not cooked) 2 tsp ground cumin 3 Tbsp broth powder    1 tsp sea salt 1 tsp black pepper 1 Tbsp tomato paste Add all ingredients into at least a 4 quart stockpot (you want to have enough room to stir without sloshing!)  Simmer over medium heat for one hour or until the rice and lentils are cooked.  Easy peasy! The rice takes on a golden tint from the turmeric in the tomato sauce.  There is still a hint of ginger while the rest of the spices and the onion make just a nice savory vegetable soup base.  Add in's could be anything from carrots and celery to more tomato or leftover beans.  Think minestrone, think vegetable soup.  If you have meat eaters, you could add in leftover chicken for a lightly spiced chicken vegetable soup.  Adjust the seasonings to suit your taste, try a bit more broth powder or salt and pepper.  Top each bowl with minced cilantro or a swirl of coconut milk if you want to get fancy. The beauty of cooking this way is that we waste very little.  I like to call  cooking it by the seat of your pants.  In the same way that aviators are said to "fly by the seat of their pants" aka without a flight plan, instruments, radio, etc., so can we cook!  We can be culinary renegades, working without the guidance of a cookbook, leaving Food TV behind!  I cook this way all the time, and, only occasionally do I have something crash and burn. It just so happens that I had something bite the dust last night.  I love rice paper wrappers and have tried to use them in a few different ways... so far, the only successful way I've found is to rehydrate them and use them as fresh wrappers for raw spring rolls.  I sure want them to be able to do more though... yes, I do!  So, the little experiment that I did last night involved rice paper wrappers and steam.  I now know that those two things don't mix, but it took a solid try to figure out because nobody tells you these things... well, I'm telling you now, but no one told me! Anyway, the sad story is that I made a handful of these fresh rolls in a sort of dumpling style and purse style and in the traditional roll.  I prepped my steamer basket and had my shallow water at a low boil.  The perfect steam environment was within my grasp!  A little oil on the steamer to prevent sticking (so I thought) and away I went.  The lid shut on the steming pan, I began to smell the little goodies.  My children even commented how nice things were smelling in the kitchen.  We were all getting a bit excited and, truth be told, you could have caught any one of us wiping a little drool from the corner of our mouths as we salivated like hungry wolves near the fragrant pan.  A few minutes passed and I removed the lid.... and along with it came a few of the rolls because the rice paper stuck like glue to the lid... and I thought I could rescue the few that were still laying there in tact... so I got the tongs and went right in there with confidence... until I found the plump shiny parcels completely and totally glued to the steamer basket.  It was a steamer basket casket and it was a sad sad sight.  I share this with you because it's important to validate that trying and experimenting is worthwhile even when you fail.  Without the failures we can't find our way to the successes.  For me, the key is not taking anything too seriously in the kitchen.