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Lubia Chalow–Afghan Lemony Kidney Beans

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I’m happy to be hosting the Food Matters Project this week.  This was the perfect dish to make this Saturday on what was yet another rainy, cold April day in Michigan.  I have become accustomed over the last two months to the shared misery of a cold and rainy spring here (I have to remind myself that I am not alone in hoping for spring, lamenting every snow flake that falls–yup, we even got snow yesterday on April 14).  There is a sense of solidarity here in Michigan–we are in this together!  Because of this shared empathy about the weather, I kind of forgot that a lot of other areas of the country are having splendid spring weather, almost summery in fact.  So, here is to hoping that this dish is as satisfying in the warmer regions as it was here in the land of rain and snow.

I chose this dish for this week’s Food Matters Project because it is something that I normally might not make and I was really curious about it.  Bittman called it “Super Lemony Kidney Beans” and it sounded like it could either be really bad or really good.  Thank goodness it is the latter because this one, although requiring little hands-on time, takes a good chunk of time in the oven.  One thing that is really interesting about The Food Matters Project cookbook is that there are no photos so every recipe is kind of a surprise.  While I can usually imagine what the dish will taste like, I have a hard time imagining what it will look like.  This dish is based on an Afghan dish called lubia chalow and the best way to describe it is a bean stew with preserved lemons and plenty of spices (spicy-flavorful, not spicy-hot).  Having never cooked anything from Afghan cuisine, I was excited to try.  It used a lot of the same spices that I love to use in my cooking…cardamom, mustard seeds (I could write a blog post on how many ways I use mustard seeds in my cooking!), cumin seeds, cinnamon, chile, and garlic.

Spices for Lubia Chalow

It resembles a big pot of chili with the exception that rather than simmering slowly on the stove, it spends a couple of hours in the oven.  You’ll need a nice, heavy pot or Dutch oven–I used a Martha Stewart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.  A thinner pot might burn the food on the bottom in the oven.

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I am staying at my friend, June’s, beautiful little house in the country.  It is so cozy in her house and, having been a little damp and cold after running through pouring rain into the house, I decided to plant my chair right by the oven and work on my computer in the warmth.  I also took some breaks to take some photos of the birds (through the window, of course)! 

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After smelling cardamom, cumin, and cinnamon wafting through the air for the better part of two hours I could hardly wait to try this.  It was satisfying and very unique with the preserved lemons.  Oh, one thing I should note is that the recipe for the lemons makes a ton of preserved lemons (about 3 cups or so).  You can easily halve the recipe for the lemons and have enough for this dish with a little leftover.  Oh, and be sure to stop on by and see what everyone else on the Food Matters Project ended up creating here.

And just so you don’t think it’s all gloom and doom here, the sun finally came out Sunday (after the snow, sleet, and rain had made their point during the morning and early afternoon).  I finally got out for a walk with the pup.  It felt wonderful to get outside, breath in the fresh air, pick some daffodils, and stretch our legs.  I think my dog sums up perfectly how I felt yesterday–no words needed.

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Enjoy this dish and enjoy the springtime, wherever you are.

Lubia Chalow--Afghan Kidney Bean Stew

Lubia Chalow (Super-Lemony Kidney Beans); from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

Serves 6 to 8; Takes about 3 hours, largely unattended

Based on an Afghan dish called lubia chalow, this soupy bean stew begins with quick preserved lemons, a staple of Middle Eastern cooking.  Usually the lemons are left whole or halved, heavily salted, and set aside to cure in a mixture of spices and their own juice.  Chopping the fruit helps speed the process considerably with delicious (if not entirely authentic) results.  Six lemons are enough so that you can use some of the mixture for the beans and store the rest in a jar in the fridge for later.  (They get better and better with age.)  These beans are good served over Basmati or jasmine rice with a dollop of yogurt.

  • 6 lemons
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I reduced to about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods (I did not have cardamom pods so I added 1 tablespoon cardamom–I love cardamom though–if you aren’t sure, you may want to add a teaspoon, then adjust at the end of cooking)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 dried mild chile (I used ancho)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound dried kidney beans, rinsed and picked over; don’t bother to soak them (I used cranberry beans, which are very similar)
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, for garnish (I used cilantro)
  1. Heat the oven to 325°.  Trim the ends from 4 of the lemons; quarter them, remove the seeds, and put them (rind included) in a food processor.  Add the juice of the remaining 2 lemos to the food processor (again, without the seeds) along with 2 teaspoons salt.  Pulse several times to chop the lemons into bits but don’t puree.  Put the mixture in a jar and leave it on the counter while you cook the beans; shake it every once in a while.
  2. Put the oil in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more. Stir in the cumin, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and dried chile; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so.  Stir in the tomato paste.
  3. Add the kidney beans and water to cover by about 3 inches.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and bake for 90 minutes (you can ignore the beans this whole time).  After 90 minutes, stir the beans and check to see if they are tender.  If they are, add water if necessary to keep the beans covered by about 1 inch and stir in 1/2 cup of the pickled lemons. Cover and continue baking for another 30 minutes.  If the beans are not yet tender, make sure they are covered by about 2 inches water and don’t add the lemons yet.  Cover the pot and check again in 30 minutes; repeat this step as necessary until the beans are tender enough to add the lemons.
  4. When the beans are completely tender and the liquid has thickened, fish out the cinnamon stick and chile if you like (and the cardamom pods if you can find them easily).  Then taste and adjust the seasonings, adding pepper and some more of the lemons if you like.  Serve, garnished with the mint (you can make the beans ahead and refrigerate them for up to several days; gently reheat before serving.

Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze

Seitan Jicama and Pineapple Tacos

I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the world but here it is the Winter-That-Never-Ends or the Spring-That-Never-Comes (there are still 3 feet of snow where my poor mom lives in the Upper Peninsula so I’ll hush now).  Today was dark and rainy, so dark that I had to turn on the lights in my house as though it was nighttime.  I needed a pick-me-up.  Pronto.  So I made this lively and lovely fajita recipe, courtesy of Mark Bittman.  Thanks to the darling Margarita at Let’s Cook and Be Friends for choosing this recipe as the Food Matters Project recipe of the week.  The original recipe is called “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas” and can be found on Margarita’s blog by clicking here.  This being a vegetarian blog, I ended up making mine with seitan (seasoned wheat gluten) instead of steak.  But if you prefer, you can substitute meat or any meat substitute in this recipe and it will still be delicious.  If you want to check out what the other FMP bloggers came up with, head to the Food Matters Project website for more.

Browned Seitan

Browned Seitan

This recipe uses jicama, an often forgotten vegetable in my cooking repertoire.  Jicama tastes a little bit like a green apple when it is uncooked.  Cooked, it retains a pleasant crunch and light sweetness.  The pineapple and limes in this recipe really bring out the tropical flavors of this dish.

Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.

Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.

I tried these in taco-form initially but really ended up coming to the conclusion that this is just as good as a stand-alone or served over a bed of rice.

Deconstructed Fajitas

Deconstructed Fajitas

Each bite is a reminder of the summer that I know will eventually come.  It was a great pick-me-up today and along with my chaser of hot yoga, by the end of the day I was sitting pretty.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze
Adapted from “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas”; Mark Bittman, The Food Matters Cookbook
Makes: 4 servings        Time: 40 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces of seitan, thinly sliced (don’t feel limited by this–if you prefer you can use steak, chicken, tofu, or any other protein you want–this dish would also be great with veggies alone if you don’t have protein on hand)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 or 2 fresh hot chiles (like jalapeno or Thai), seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 8 ounces jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup cubed fresh pineapple
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup water
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Warm corn or whole wheat tortillas, for serving, optional
  1. Put a large skillet over high heat until it smokes, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and, a few seconds later, the seitan/protein. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir immediately. Cook, stirring every 20 seconds or so for just a minute or 2 until it has some nice charring on it. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the onion, bell peppers, chile, and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the seitan/protein.
  3. Raise the heat to high again and add the jicama, radishes, and carrots. Stir immediately, then cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the vegetables soften and begin to char slightly, 3-5 minutes. Transfer everything to the plate with the seitan/protein.
  4. Add the pineapple, lime juice, and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring to scrape any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the glaze thickens a little. Return all the vegetables and seitan/protein to the pan and toss to coat with the lime and pineapple mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm tortillas.

Lentil “Sloppy Joes” and Food Bloggers Against Hunger

Welcome to a very special Monday!  Today 200 food bloggers will dedicate their posts to raising awareness about hunger.  I am so happy to be participating in this great cause.  In addition to providing some information about hunger and links for more information, we will all post budget friendly recipes on our blogs today.

Hunger is a close personal issue to me.  My family was very low income and had to scrape to get by many weeks.  We had a very large vegetable garden that helped a great deal (and 5 kids to provide all the labor!).  If we ran out of groceries before the next paycheck came, we would eat big bowls of popcorn for dinner.  Us kids didn’t care–popcorn nights were the best!  But as an adult, I can now see and understand the worry my mom and stepdad faced week to week, paycheck to paycheck.  I still remember the embarrassment on my moms face when I blurted out that we sold our horses so we could buy winter boots.  My mom had to be pretty savvy about cooking on a limited budget.  One of her go-to recipes was lentil sloppy joes.  With this recipe, you can feed a family of four for less than $1.50 per person (this amount figures in pantry staples as well as fresh ingredients)!  Not only is it budget-friendly, this recipe is very healthy to boot and is comprised primarily of pantry staples.

I call attention to the amount spent per person for the lentil sloppy joe recipe because this figure is very important to many families, especially those who participate in SNAP, the nation’s food stamp program.  The Giving Table (organizer of the Food Bloggers Against Hunger) states that SNAP recipients are limited to an average of $3-$4 per person each day to supplement their food budget.  Additionally, the government subsidizes products like soy beans, wheat, and corn instead of fresh produce, so the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest.  Furthermore, 1 in 4 families are skipping healthy food purchases often or always due to price (click here for more info).  Overall, more than 50 million Americans face food insecurity.  In a nation of such abundance, this sad fact is difficult to believe and even more difficult to ignore.

The issue of hunger among children is especially heartwrenching.  Children who do not get the proper nutrition are not as healthy as other children (see here) and have lower academic performance.  When you are thinking about how hungry you are, it is difficult to focus on school work.  Much has been done in schools to ease this issue.  Free lunches are provided to children who qualify based on income.  Our family received free school lunches, which we took advantage of several days a week.  Despite measures being taken to provide school lunches to all children in need, this does not address the issue of children showing up to school hungry or going home to a house with limited food.  3 out of 5 teachers say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry (from the Hunger In Our Schools Study).  Many teachers bring food to school to help children who arrive hungry to school in order to help them concentrate through the morning.  If you want to help protect funding for federal nutrition programs, click here.

Fresh foods are often more expensive than processed foods, preventing some families from buying fresh produce.  Organic produce is even more expensive.  I have hope that this issue can be eased.  In fact, in Grand Rapids, MI, where I live, I’ve seen progress toward this issue.  The Fulton Street Farmer’s Market is one place of progressive change.  They offer the Double Up Food Bucks program.  When a person eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) uses his or her SNAP Bridge Card to shop for food at a farmers’ market, the amount of money that he or she spends is matched with Double Up Food Bucks bonus tokens. The tokens can then be exchanged for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.  For more information on this wonderful program, click here.

Shoppers who do not have a farmer’s market or a program like Double Up Food Bucks, can still take advantage of lower-cost produce.  With some tasty recipes, a home cook can transform inexpensive produce and pantry staples into fabulous meals.  There are several budget-friendly dishes that you can find on my blog; several can be made for $4!  For example, for just $4, a family can dig into this silky, gingery cabbage dish.  For just $4, you can also make these lentil-rice stuffed collard greens.  This red lentil dal is another quick and inexpensive recipe, relying primarily on pantry ingredients.  Finally, my favorite!  Polenta is a cheap, filling, and healthy meal base.  Serve with oven roasted vegetables and you have an inexpensive, healthy, and filling meal.  Click here for my polenta with roasted vegetables en papillote recipe.

So what can you do?  

  1. Please join the No Kid Hungry campaign in standing up for kids in need. Urge your members of Congress to protect federal nutrition programs that feed our nation’s hungry kids.  Just click here to get started.  It only takes a minute at most.
  2. Head over to the No Kid Hungry website to donate or to find local and national organizations in your area.  These organizations are always looking for helping hands.
  3. Watch A Place At The Table to understand more about our nations food crisis.
  4. Try to live off of $4 for one day to put yourself in the shoes of a food insecure person.
  5. Make the lentil sloppy joe recipe below!  I think it is way better than “real” sloppy joes.  I promise–you won’t miss the meat.

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Lentil “Sloppy Joes”

  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider is best)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns, split (preferably whole wheat)
  1. Put lentils and water in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender.  This will take about 30 minutes.  
  2. While lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium heat.  When hot, add onions and green pepper and cook until the onions have softened somewhat, about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard powder, chili powder, molasses, and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Turn heat to lowest setting and simmer 10 minutes until thickened.
  3. Stir cooked lentils into sauce mixture.  Serve on toasted buns.  This recipe is vegan as-is but you can add a slice of cheese to the top of the mixture on the bun and melt it under the broiler if you are not vegan.
  4. Serves 4.

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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Cabbage or Collard Greens Stuffed with Lentils and Rice

Cabbage Rolls Stuffed With Rice and Lentils

Welcome to Food Matters Monday!  This week, Keely Marie chose the recipe for us–stuffed cabbage rolls!  Keely Marie has some really great food on her blog–a couple of my favorites are her homemade naan (so brave–I haven’t tried making my own naan yet because I’m afraid I’m going to ruin it…) and her take on the polenta cake we all made a while back.

The stuffed cabbage recipe in the Food Matters Project Cookbook has meat in it and I’m a once-in-a-while meat eater (and a never ground beef eater) so chose not to include it in this recipe.  Wanting to stay with Bittman’s approach, though, I headed to my cookbook collection and grabbed his How To Cook Everything Vegetarian book.  And there it was.  A vegetarian version.  This reminded me of stuffed grape leaves quite a bit.  With the advantage of being able to use only pantry items I already had.  I always have cabbage on hand and ended up having collard greens on hand to test (with great results!).  The filling reminded me of mujadarrah, one of my favorite dishes, and one I will make when I know I’m going to have a busy workweek ahead of me.  Mujadarrah is basically rice and lentils with cumin, topped with fried onions and plain yogurt.  It was all I could do to not use the lentils and rice to make mujadarrah today and knowing this, I made extra so I could make the dish tomorrow!

If you prefer, you can also “deconstruct” the dish, serving it as a lentil/rice/cabbage bowl with some crumbled feta and a drizzle of olive oil.   Equally delicious, though not nearly as fun to eat.

Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage with Lentils and Rice

I’m so glad I got to try this recipe because now I know that I can use cabbage and collard leaves to make cool “burritos” with any variety of fillings.  I’ll take this healthy option over a flour tortilla any day!

Cabbage or Collard Greens Stuffed with Cumin-Scented Lentils and Rice; adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian Cookbook

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus a little for garnish
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1/2 cup brown, white, or Basmati rice (I used short-grain brown and Lundberg Farms is my favorite brand)
  • 1/2 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large cabbage or collard greens, see below for preparation
  • Feta, Gruyere, Fontina, Gouda, or mozzarella cheese slices or butter (optional–leave out the cheese and this recipe is vegan)
  1. Put the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the stock and bring to a boil.
  2. If you’re using brown rice, add it to the pot along with the lentils.  If you’re using white or basmati rice, add the lentils and cook them for 5 minutes, then add the rice.  Turn the heat to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently, cover, and cook until the lentils and rice are tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed (you don’t want it completely dry), 25 to 30 minutes.  If there is excess liquid, take the cover off, turn the heat to high, and boil it off, being careful not to burn the bottom.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, use a thin-bladed sharp knife to cut a cone-shaped wedge out of the bottom of the cabbage, removing its core.  Pull off 8 to 12 large, untorn leaves and put in a steamer above a couple inches of salted water.  If you are using kale, simply Cover and cook until the leaves are just flexible enough to bend.  Make a V-cut in each leaf to remove the tough central stem.
  4. To stuff the cabbage or kale leaves, put a leaf, curved side up, on a counter or cutting board.  Put 1/4 cup or so of  filling in the center of the leaf, near where you cut off the stem.  Fold over the sides, then roll up from the stem end, making a little package.  Don’t roll too tightly — the mixture will expand as it cooks.  Skewer the rolls with a toothpick or two to hold them together or just put them seam side down.
  5. Put the cabbage packages in the steamer and cook until the cabbage is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Top with a slice of cheese and run under the broiler until bubbly if you like or drizzle with olive oil or melt a pat of butter on top.  Sprinkle with herbs and serve.

Migas Breakfast Tacos

Oh migas!  Where had you been all my life?  I’m about to let you in on one of the best breakfasts. Ever.

Migas Breakfast Tacos

My boyfriend spent a few weeks on the road recently and about two weeks of it was spent in Austin, TX.  I tried to contain my jealousy as he told me about his daily breakfast fix of migas tacos from Maria’s Taco X-Press.  Up until recently, I had enjoyed migas only once or twice.  A deli in Kalamazoo, MI serves it as side dish and it is quite yummy but nothing in comparison to this Tex-Mex version, cooked up with eggs and cheese and served in warm corn tortillas.

After listening to my sweetie lament the loss of his new favorite breakfast, and being a good little foodist, I suggested my best solution…make them ourselves!  A quick search found a recipe from none other than Maria’s Taco X-Press and we set about whipping up our first of many migas breakfasts.  The only differences?  A little bit of cheese (I hear they are heavy-handed with it down in Austin–everything is bigger in Texas!) and instead of wearing tee-shirts and sunglasses in Austin we were bundled up in sweaters, leg warmers, flannel, and shearling boots to brave the frigid January-in-Michigan temps.  Maybe in July we’ll get that Austin feeling as we tuck into our probably fiftieth migas breakfast.  At about 3 or 4 times a week, we are establishing  a lifelong habit!  And I’m alright with that.

Migas Breakfast Tacos

First, add the onions, tortilla chips, and peppers to a hot pan with one teaspoon of oil:

Cooking Tortilla Chips, Onions, and Peppers

Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes or just until onion is translucent.

Cooking Migas...Tortilla Chips, Tomatoes, Onions, Cilantro, Peppers

Add eggs to skillet, and cook, without stirring, 1 to 2 minutes or until eggs begin to set on bottom…the full recipe is below!

Adding the eggs to the Migas

Served with my homemade Habanero hot sauce…..yes, ma’am!

Migas breakfast tacos with habanero hot sauce

Migas Breakfast Tacos; adapted recipe from My Recipes, as shared by Maria’s Taco X-Press in Austin, TX

    • 1/3 cup lightly crushed tortilla chips
    • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes (during the winter months, use canned chopped tomatoes, strained)
    • 2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño peppers (for a less spicy version add green bell pepper instead).  I also add a couple tablespoons of hot salsa verde sometimes.
    • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
    • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • Pinch of salt and pepper
    • 2 (8-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
    • 1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded 2% reduced-fat Mexican four-cheese blend
  1. Sauté tortilla chips, onions, tomatoes, and peppers in hot oil in a medium-size non-stick skillet over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes or just until onion is translucent.
  2. Whisk together eggs, salt, and pepper. Add to skillet, and cook, without stirring, 1 to 2 minutes or until eggs begin to set on bottom. Gently draw cooked edges away from sides of pan to form large pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes or until eggs are thickened and moist. (Do not over stir.) Spoon egg mixture into warm tortillas, and sprinkle with cheese; serve immediately folded into corn tortillas with sliced avocado and plenty of hot sauce.  I love mine with my homemade Habanero hot sauce but Valentino or Topatio are also fantastic!

 

Paella with Lots of Vegetables

Vegetarian Paella

Welcome to Food Matters Monday…your weekly reminder that you are what you eat!  This week the awesomely adventurous foodie (and fellow oatmeal lover), Meg, from Fledgling Foodie, chose the recipe, a “pared down” paella with peas, clams, and chorizo.  Meg actually lived in Spain for four months in college so has a leg up on the art of paella making (and eating!) because she knows what a good paella should be.  I’ve only had paella once, at a wonderful Cuban restaurant named Cabana Nuevo Latino in my old neighborhood in Queens, NY (there are five locations and I have been to two–one in Forest Hills, Queens, and the other in Delray Beach, FL–I’ve been to both!).  I just had a couple of bites from my friend’s plate and that is what I picture now when I think of paella, a generously sized dish of crisp-bottomed rice, soaking up a saffron-tomato broth with seafood intermingled in it all.  Six years later, I finally got around to trying my hand at paella for the first time, thanks to the Food Matters Project.

Paella with Vegetables

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite things about the Food Matters Project is that it forces me to try new things.  I don’t get too excited about rice dishes (I’ve had risotto rice sitting untouched in my pantry for two years–Gordon Ramsey would be so disappointed!).  Paella never really popped out at me as a must-make dish.  But the FMP pushed me to try it and I’m glad I did.  I bought saffron for this dish and (gasp!) it was my first time using saffron.  I think saffron is an acquired taste (do you all agree?) and it was probably what I liked the least about the dish.  Otherwise, I found the paella to make for a hearty main dish, a good side dish, and overall, a healthy way to eat a ton of vegetables.  Oh, and though the saffron wasn’t my favorite flavor, the color it imparted was marvelous!!!

My version is a vegan version and also gluten-free.  It was very easy to pull together and I listened to Lynn on the Splendid Table while making it and wished I could pick her brain about what she thinks makes a good paella!

I made mine in a dutch oven and was able to achieve the crispy rice bottom that is characteristic of paella.

Making Paella

If you haven’t tried paella yet, I say go for it!  I think it would taste great with some shrimp, mussels, and chorizo.  To see what everyone else came up with, head over to the Food Matters Project website.  To get the original recipe with clams, chorizo, and peas, head on over to Meg’s blog!

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Paella with Lots of Vegetables; adapted from the NY Times

  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • Generous pinch saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups short or medium-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small summer squash, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen lima beans
  • 1 cup shelled fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Crush the saffron threads between your fingertips, and place in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon warm water, and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or a paella pan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the peppers begin to soften, about three minutes. Add the tomato paste, paprika and rice. Cook, stirring, for one minute until the grains begin to crackle.  Be very careful to keep an eye on the pan during this phase so you don’t burn the rice!  I burned my first batch :(.  Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they cook down slightly and smell fragrant, about five minutes. Stir in the saffron with its soaking water. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the stock, zucchini, summer squash, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer without stirring until the liquid has just about evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the peas. Continue to simmer until the rice is dry, another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.