Monthly Archives: March 2013

Indian Cooking At Home: Easy Red Lentil Dal

Red Lentil and Vegetable Dal

Welcome to another Food Matters Project/Meatless Monday!  Today, Anita from Cooking Poetry chose Dal With Lots of Vegetables from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook.  I love making a quick and easy dal and have been meaning for some time to show everyone what I typically do for a quick and easy weeknight supper.  You can add whatever vegetables you want.  Today I kept it simple, adding just carrots and onions.  Cauliflower, eggplant, tomato, potato all work well in this dish also.  You can fiddle with the combination of spices to find something that you like and that works with your current pantry contents.  I served mine with whole wheat naan and basmati rice. This dish is hard to mess up so have fun with it and enjoy!

To see the other FMP cooks’ takes on this dish, head over to The Food Matters Project website.


Easy Vegetable and Red Lentil Dal adapted from Mark Bittman The Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 tbsp butter, ghee, or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into little chunks
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 dried mild chilis
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar, optional
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  1.  Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger, garlic, and carrots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the cardamom, cumin, mustard seeds, garam masala, cinnamon, and chilis and stir until the spices are fragrant but not burning, just a minute.
  2. Add the lentils and cover with water by about 1 inches. Cook until lentils and vegetables are tender and the mixture is thick, about 35-45 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve.

Parmesan Polenta with Honey Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Parmesan Polenta with Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Alright, the secret’s out.  I love polenta.  I’ll take a big gob of polenta any day over a bed of pasta or rice.  And so many dishes taste fantastic spooned over polenta that it is hard to go wrong.  Some of  my favorite ways to eat polenta are:  with marinara and goat cheese, with roasted vegetables, with Provencal vegetables en papillote, with fried eggs and spinach, with fried eggs and avocado, with a tomato-vegetable stew…the list goes on.  Polenta is also gluten-free.  And really beautiful, if you ask me.  It makes for a quick meal that is impressive enough to serve for guests.

Polenta With Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio-Goat Cheese

The recipe I’m adding to my polenta-files today is Parmesan polenta with Roasted Root Vegetables and Pistachio Goat Cheese.  This is a simple meal to make but the results are creamy, filling, and decadent.

Parmesan Polenta with Roasted Root Veggies

Parmesan Polenta with Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Serves 4

For the root veggies:

  • 1 large beet
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1/2 celery root
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced 1/4 of an inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • generous pinch of sea salt

Heat oven to 400°.  Put veggies in a covered baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, honey, and a generous pinch of salt.  Bake for 30 minutes and test for doneness.  The veggies should be silky but still hold their shape.  Pop back in the oven for 10 minutes if the veggies need more time.

For the polenta:

  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • pepper to taste
  1. Heat water to a boil over high heat.  Have a whisk ready and quickly whisk in the polenta.  Whisk for a moment to discourage clumping.
  2. Lower heat to a simmer, add the butter, a large pinch of salt, and a small pinch of pepper.
  3. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Taste the polenta and add salt or pepper to your preference.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

For the pistachio goat cheese:

  • Olive oil
  • 6 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  1. Combine the goat cheese and pistachios in a food processor. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and, with the machine running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. If the mixture doesn’t come together, add more oil until the filling is smooth and fluffy. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.
  2. Transfer the goat cheese mixture to a pastry bag or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off (or you can just use a teaspoon for this). Squeeze or spoon dabs of the filling onto the roasted root veggies. 

Provencal Vegetables En Papillote with Creamy Polenta

Creamy Polenta with Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

This was a stand-up meal.  Let me explain…sure it’s nice to have a “sit-down dinner.”  But a stand-up meal can be even better.  Sometimes I have every intention of sitting down to eat but take a first bite and forget about everything else.  I just stand in the kitchen at the counter and eat until it’s gone.  This was that kind of a meal.

Creamy Polenta with Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

I must admit, I had low expectations going into this.  The last time I cooked a meal en papillote (meaning to bake ingredients wrapped in a foil or parchment paper pouch) I made a beautiful arrangement of light and bright vegetables, drizzled them with olive oil, lemon, and parsley, and topped with rainbow trout.  Sounds great, right?  Well, it turns out that this girl does not…I repeat, does NOT like trout.  And even after I decided to push the trout to the side of my plate, I found the beautiful veggies to be too trouty for my tastes.  Beautiful idea, bad execution.

This week, my friend Nancy (hi, Nancy!!!) from Texas, proud contributor to the fun and funky food blog, Funkytown Foodies, chose Provencal Vegetables and Chicken in Packages for the Food Matters Project recipe.  I almost thought about skipping it or even concocting something with similar ingredients but in a different format.  I’m so glad I didn’t!!  I know a lot of you would say that this looks good…if only it had meat.  Well, you are in luck!  This dish is really easy to make with chicken or fish.  To see how Nancy, did it, head over to her blog for the instructions.

Cooking “en papillote” is basically just baking ingredients in a pouch, usually made of folded parchment paper.  You can buy parchment pouches if you’d like (they are way overpriced, though, in my opinion) or just take two sheets of parchment paper and crimp the edges.  That’s it!  Cooking this way is very easy and the cleanup is the best part (hint:  there is no pan cleanup!).  This is a great way to cook just veggies or veggies with chicken or fish.

Provencal Vegetables Ready to Bake


Provencal Vegetables Ready to Bake en Papillote Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

I devised a vegetarian version, using Provençal vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, potato, eggplant, red bell pepper, onion, and Kalamata olives ended up in mine), drizzled with some olive oil, a touch of balsamic glaze, pepper, sea salt, and some parsley.  Once the pouch was crimped, I stuck it on a cookie sheet in the oven for 35 minutes and the result was marvelous…it exceeded my expectations.

Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

I decided to serve mine on top of creamy polenta.  The combination was crazy delicious.  I barely got through taking photos before digging in.  One of the most pleasant surprises was that the potato slices, which I had placed on the bottom, got browned and flavorful.

Crispy Potatoes en Papillote

This is a dish that will be made time and time again!  Guaranteed.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Creamy Polenta with Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

Provencal Vegetables En Papillote with Creamy Polenta; Serves 4

For the vegetables:

  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 baby zucchini squash, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 summer squash, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 baby eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds (I recommend salting the slices, letting sit for 20 minutes, then rinsing and dabbing dry.  This reduces the bitterness)
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 small onion, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 10-15 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic glaze (or just a little splash of balsamic vinegar will do)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves (I left the leaves whole)
  • Generous pinch of flaky sea salt
  • Generous sprinkling of ground pepper
  1. Heat oven to 375°.  For this amount of veggies, I make two pouches.  Tear 4 pieces of parchment paper (about 14″ x 14″ for each piece).  Arrange once piece onto a cookie sheet and stack your veggies, olives, and garlic onto the paper.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and season with parsley, salt, and pepper.
  2. Once all the veggies are stacked nicely on the paper, add another sheet of paper to the top of the veggie stack.  Taking the bottom piece of paper and the top piece of paper together on one edge, begin crimping around the stack until you have a completely enclosed pouch that looks like a round pasty (yoopers, you know what I am talking about!).  Do the same for the second pouch.
  3. Place the pouches on a cookie sheet and bake for 35 minutes.  In the meantime, make the polenta (see recipe below).
  4. Pull out of the oven and let sit for a moment.  For a dramatic presentation, have everyone’s bowls ready to go with polenta and cut these pouches open on the middle of the table.  Steam and the fragrance of these veggies will pour out.  Your guests will be delighted!  Top the polenta with some veggies and a drizzle of olive oil.  You can add some fresh grated parmesan to the top if you like.  Sprinkle with some fresh herbs and enjoy!

For the polenta:

  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • pepper to taste
  1. Heat water to a boil over high heat.  Have a whisk ready and quickly whisk in the polenta.  Whisk for a moment to discourage clumping.
  2. Lower heat to a simmer, add the butter, a large pinch of salt, and a small pinch of pepper.
  3. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Taste the polenta and add salt or pepper to your preference.  Stir in the parmesan cheese.


Triple Ginger Cookies

Chewy Triple Ginger Cookies

Okay…I know these don’t fall under my typical whole foods cooking style.  I know…I know.  But if you want to add some gingery goodness to your life and you want to do it by making a chewy on the inside, crispy on the edges, sweet treat, this is the recipe for you.  And there is the redeeming quality that you use whole wheat flour in this recipe and lots of fresh, ground, and candied ginger.  And ginger is great for your digestion.  So there.

Triple Ginger Cookies

I found this recipe in Country Living Magazine and these cookies easily found a place in boxes of Christmas cookies I passed out.  They also found a place in my heart and in my home and will surely be made for years to come.  Enjoy!

Ginger Cookies Ready to Bake

Triple Ginger Cookies adapted from Country Living

  • 2 cup(s) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  • Salt
  • 1 stick(s) butter
  • 1/4 cup(s) molasses
  • 2/3 cup(s) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon(s) finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup(s) finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup(s) turbinado sugar
  1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
  2. In a small pan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and stir in molasses, brown sugar, and fresh ginger. Let cool.
  3. Add egg to cooled molasses mixture and stir to combine. Slowly stir into reserved dry ingredients, then stir in crystallized ginger. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, place turbinado sugar in a shallow bowl. Shape dough into half-inch balls, then roll in turbinado sugar. Place cookies on two parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers With Homemade Sriracha Mayo

Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers

March 11.  Daylight savings time has passed.  Another cold and dreary day in Grand Rapids but despite the weather, I have hope!  Hope that spring will be here soon.  Hope that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other I will trudge to happy destiny.  On days like today, I love being able to turn my attention to cooking.  Cooking is the ultimate form of creativity for me.  It calms my mind and turns a bright light on inside of me.  I get so excited to see how things will turn out but the process is, in an of itself, often enough for me.

Today happened to be Food Matters Project Monday.  Evi and Sam from Fifth Floor Kitchen chose the recipe for us this week…brown rice and lamb burgers with spinach.  As you know, I’m not a huge fan of cooking with meat so I opted to make lentil and brown rice burgers with lots of veggies.  I already had a pot of lentils cooked up for who-knows-what-I-would-want-to-do-with-them.  I always have a use for lentils and have a deep fondness for them.  I also happened to have cooked brown rice on hand, having cooked it for quick weekend meals.  Score!

Next came the bit where I decided how I wanted to flavor these bad boys.  I sautéed diced onions, celery, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, a couple of leaves of shredded collard greens, and some fresh parsley with some olive oil and salt.  When they were cooked up I tossed in a handful of sunflower seeds for crunch.


Next, I blended some lentils with some rice and two eggs in my Breville blender (you may need to use a food processor if you don’t have a heavy-duty blender).  After that, I mixed the lentil-rice-egg mixture with the vegetables, stirred in some miso paste for flavor and some brown rice flour for texture and holding power.  The result was a flavorful, healthy patty with just the right texture and really nice umami flavors.

This recipe made about 15 small patties (I’m trying to remember how many I ate and how many I started with….hmmmm).  I made them small because my buns were small but you can make these any size you want.  I experimented with baking vs. pan-cooking and I found that cooking these in the pan were easier because they stuck to the baking sheet for me a little bit.  Next time, if I chose to bake them, I would use my silicone baking liner and that method would work out just fine.


These measurements are not exact…and you can add the seasonings you want if you don’t have some of the things I added.  No biggie.  Just make sure you can form these into patties and that they hold together and you are good to go!

I served mine on a wheat bun with sliced avocado, thinly sliced onion, swiss cheese, and homemade sriracha mayo.  I cannot WAIT to post about the sriracha.  I am highly recommending you all try to make it at home–it’s easy and delicious and tastes even better than the store-bought kind.

To see what the other creative takes the Food Matters Project cooks came up with, head over to the website.


Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers with Homemade Sriracha Mayo

Makes about 15 small patties

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5-6 mushrooms, diced into small bits
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 leaves of collard greens, chopped into small pieces (you can substitute any green)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • Small handful of sunflower seeds (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cups cooked brown lentils
  • 1 and ¼ cup cooked rice, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping Tbsp miso paste
  • about 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  1. Heat olive oil in a pan and add all of the ingredients through parsley.  Saute for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently.  When vegetables soften, turn off heat and add sunflower seeds.  Transfer to large bowl.
  2. Put lentils, 1 cup rice, 2 eggs, salt, and miso paste into a blender or food processor and pulse until combined.
  3. Pour lentil-rice-egg mixture onto the vegetable mixture along with the remaining 1/4 cup of rice and combine thoroughly.  Add flour until the mixture is thick enough to form into patties that hold their shape.
  4. Heat one teaspoon oil in a non-stick skillet and add patties to the pan, cooking in batches on low heat until the patties are browned lightly on the bottom, about 5-7 minutes.  Flip and cook on the other side for about 5 minutes until browned.  Transfer to a plate and cook the rest of the patties in batches.
  5. Serve on a bun with any toppings you would like!  I love avocado, lettuce, onion, dijon mustard, sriracha mayo, cheeses….mmmmm….I think I might have another!



How to Make Homemade Almond Butter: Roasted or Raw

When I was a kid, my mom would occasionally try to trick me into eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I loathed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I used to sneak outside and feed them to Popcorn, one of our geriatric Shetland ponies. Lest you think of me as a picky eater, let me share that I much preferred alfalfa sprout, cheddar, and mustard sandwiches or pan-fried tofu and ketchup sandwiches.  Yes, an odd child with adventurous tastes indeed.  There was just something about a classic PBJ that turned me off.  Especially if it had sat in a Snow White lunchbox getting warm and soggy until noon.  Yuck.  I guess I was a foodie before I even knew it.

Fast forward.  I still don’t like PBJ. Probably never will.  And I’m still not too into peanut butter.  But other nut butters can definitely spark my interest.  Cashew and almond butters can be amazing!  They also tend to be expensive and take me a long time to eat a whole jar so I typically skip buying them.  But I recently discovered how easy it is to make your own super-smooth and creamy nut butters at home.  And the beauty is that you can make small batches and customize it to your preference by roasting, not roasting, or mixing some roasted nuts with raw nuts.

I’m pretty excited about this revelation.  So this week I’d like to show everyone how to make almond butter two ways:  roasted and raw.  This is one of the easiest things I’ve ever made (though decidedly not the easiest to clean up…but well worth it).  This week was the first time I have made almond butter and I just couldn’t wait to share the how-to!  Almond butter is (in my opinion, for what it’s worth) much tastier than peanut butter and has the added benefit of providing a hefty dose of Vitamin E.  Not only that, it is cheaper than store bought and you can make it to your liking, depending on if you prefer the taste of raw almonds or roasted.  All you need are some almonds, some salt, a food processor, a spatula, and some patience.  That’s it!  Let’s begin:

First, add about 3 cups of almonds to a food processor with the “S” blade.  The photos I have for this post are for a smaller batch (the larger batch was made under the cover of darkness…no good for photos) but the consistency is the same, whether you are making a batch with 1 cup or 3 cups.

Raw Almonds in Food Processor

Raw Almonds in Food Processor

Turn the food processor on and let it run for a minute.  At first, you will see the almonds grind down into an almond meal.  If you like using almond meal in your recipes (great for baking!), this is a great way to save money–grind your own!  If you are making almond butter, continue processing the almonds.

Phase One:  Almonds Become Almond Meal

Phase One: Almonds Become Almond Meal

The ground almonds will start to build up on the sides of the food processor.  You’ll want to stop the processor every 2-3 minutes and push the almonds down before continuing.

Phase Two:  Almonds Start to Build Up on Side of Processor

Phase Two: Almonds Start to Build Up on Side of Processor

After a while, the almonds will start to get a little clumpy:

Phase Three:  Almonds Start to Clump

Phase Three: Almonds Start to Clump

And will continue to get clumpier and stickier:

Phase 4:  Almonds Get Clumpier and Stickier

Phase 4: Almonds Get Clumpier and Stickier

At around the 10-12 minute mark, depending on how dry your almonds are, the almonds will finally start to release more oil and begin to resemble almond butter.  But don’t stop there!  It’s not quite done.

Phase Five:  Almost There!  About Another Minute or Two to Go.

Phase Five: Almost There! About Another Minute or Two to Go.

After another couple of minutes of processing, the almond butter will suddenly, magically, release more of its oils and become smooth and creamy.  If you taste it, it will be warm from the processing.  Now, add a pinch of high quality sea salt if you like and give it another whir.

Almond Butter Finished!  Smooth, creamy, and ready to eat.

Almond Butter Finished! Smooth, creamy, and ready to eat.

I had some of mine with some sliced apples.  Delicious!  You can use the almond butter in a recipe (try almond butter cookies–just like peanut butter cookies but better) or store in a glass jar in the fridge.  When you want to use the almond butter, take it out for a bit to warm it to room temperature for easier spreading.

Raw Almond Butter With Apples

Raw Almond Butter With Apples

Okay, so how about making roasted almond butter, you ask?  It is *almost* as easy.  There is only one added step:  roasting your almonds.  You will l want to roast your almonds in the oven on a dry sheet pan at 350° for 10 minutes.

Almonds Ready to Roast

Almonds Ready to Roast

When the almonds are roasted, they will turn a nice deep brown color:

Roasted Almonds

Roasted Almonds

Process the nuts in the same way that you would raw almonds.  When you are done, the result will be deeper in color and flavor.

Roasted Almond Butter With Apples

Roasted Almond Butter With Apples

Roasted almond butter tastes amazing on toast with some honey!  One thing to note:  if you want to add honey or any other liquid to your almond butter, wait until you serve it.  Adding liquid to your almond butter will reduce its shelf life.


Toast with Roasted Almond Butter

Toast with Roasted Almond Butter


Berry Crisp with Pine Nut and Hazelnut Topping

Berry Crisp With Pinenut Hazelnut Topping

Another Food Matters Monday has snuck up on me!  And thank goodness it has, because this was a recipe worth making.  Thanks to Laura for choosing this recipe. Laura is a personal chef (I’m so jealous!) so I knew this would be a good one.  Check out Laura’s creation on her blog, Chef Laura At Home.

This is the second time I have used pine nuts in a dessert…and the second time I’ve been impressed with the results.  The first time I used pine nuts in a lighter lemon bar recipe from Cooking Light Magazine and they were fantastic.  If you want to try that recipe, and I hope you do, click here!  The lemon bars were under 120 calories per bar and were the brightest and tastiest lemon bars I’ve tasted.

Anyway…I digress…this dish was also quite good.  Lightly sweetened and topped with a crunchy topping, this dish is great for dessert, or would even be good at breakfast with some yogurt.  Thanks again to Mark Bittman for giving us a reminder that dessert doesn’t need to be sickeningly sweet to be satisfying.

I made some of mine in a pie dish and the rest in 4 souffle cups to give to my sweet neighbors that let me park in their driveway when the plows haven’t done a good job on the slushy roads.  Whether you are using small souffle cups or a large pie dish, you’ll know its done when it gets bubbly and your kitchen smells of summer.  Enjoy!

Berry Crisp With Pinenut Hazelnut Topping

Berry Crisp with Pine Nut and Hazelnut Topping; adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman

Makes:  6 to 8 servings                                  Time:  40 to 50 minutes

  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 4 to 6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, or a mixture of the two
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • Pinch of salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F.  Grease an 8- or 9-inch square or round baking dish with a little butter. If you’re using frozen berries, set them in a colander to thaw for a bit while you prepare the crust.  Mix together the pine nuts and hazelnuts.  Put ¾ cup of the pine nut/hazelnut mixture in a food processor along with the 4 tablespoons butter and sugar; let the machine run until the nuts are finely ground and the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the rest of the pine nut/hazelnut mixture, flour, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt and stir with a fork until crumbly.  (You can make the topping ahead to this point, tightly wrap, and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to several weeks; thaw before proceeding.
  3. 015 Spread the berries in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with the lemon zest. Crumble the topping over all and press down gently.  Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is just starting to brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Serve immediately, or at least while still warm.