It’s Soup Season! Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup

I've been seeing and hearing lots of Canada Geese heading south these days.

I’ve been seeing and hearing lots of Canada Geese heading south these days.

Rabbit Rabbit everyone for the first day of October! We’ve been enjoying a spat of Indian Summer for the past couple days, but before that happened, it was cool, crisp days and once the sun goes down, it starts to get fall-like and chilly. I wanted to make good hearty soup recipe for lunches and I pulled out this old favorite from Cooking Light.

First off, this makes 11 servings and it freezes great, so you can divide into smaller containers so you can pull one out for a late dinner or lunch and not have mountains sitting around. This is just a little bit of chopping, mincing, and throwing everything into the pot and letting it cook for an hour. It’s perfect for those days you want to make something healthy and delicious, but have a lot of things to do around the house, fix it and forget it! And if you cook it for more than an hour, that’s fine, you’re pureeing most of the soup, so it really doesn’t matter. Vegans and vegetarians, you can just use all water. I never know what exactly is means when you find “red pepper” in recipes, so I used 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne for a little kick. It was great!

lentil soup
Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup

This article first appeared in the September 2001 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: 11 servings. (serving size: 1 cup)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/3 cups water
2 1/3 cups dried lentils
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
Chopped fresh tomatoes (optional)
Cilantro sprig (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion; sauté for 3 minutes or until tender. Add the turmeric and the next 6 ingredients (turmeric through garlic); sauté for 1 minute. Add water and next 4 ingredients (water through diced tomatoes); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 1 hour.

2. Reserve 2 cups lentil mixture. Place half of remaining mixture in blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with other half of remaining mixture. Stir in reserved 2 cups lentil mixture. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and a cilantro sprig, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: “When the Path to Serenity Wends Past the Stove”

I find when sad things happen in my life, I gravitate to the kitchen. It’s homey and one of the most comforting rooms in the house, and for me, cooking lets me work things out in my head, even sometimes grieve. The methodical chopping, mincing, stirring, it’s rhythmical and repetitive, and sometimes I need that.

The below article appeared in the New York Times a week after September 11, 2001. I read it when it was published and have thought of it often, as the writer evoked my same feelings; when things aren’t right in your life, or the world, retreat to the kitchen and cook. I thought back to this article not too long ago after the sudden death of a close friend. The night we got the news, I retreated to the kitchen with a martini and started chopping, cooking, and just being. I couldn’t do anything, but cooking makes you feel like you are doing something, even if it’s just nourishing the people in your own home.

And for another piece of kitchen magic, I didn’t realize the lentil soup recipe was from the September 2001 issue of Cooking Light until I started to write about it. (I swear I didn’t plan this!) Just another serendipitous kitchen moment.

When the Path to Serenity Wends Past the Stove

 

 

Recipe Redux: Naked Apple Pie

Autumn is definitely here.

Autumn is definitely here.

 

I’m finding my cooking rather erratic in the last few weeks. The Eater of the House has been away and not home for dinner, so I’ve been fixing solo dinners, which usually consists of a mish-mash of vegetables and whatever else I can find to eat. But he’s home on the weekends, so that means big dinners that make enough leftovers for lunch. And revisiting old family favorites!

With the orchards now open, I can finally get some local apples. This is family recipe is a must dessert every fall in our house. Basically, it’s an apple pie without the crust, so it’s super easy. The flour and baking powder add a little fluffiness between the pieces of apple, and if you add walnuts, you have that wonderful crunchiness and nutty flavor. The most time-consuming part is peeling, coring, and dicing the apples. I like it topped with a little bit of cream or whipped cream, and I never say no to warm pie with vanilla ice cream!


NAP USE2Naked Apple Pie
I like to use Cortland apples for my pies; if you use a sweeter apple, you can, of course, cut down on the sugar. It’s a perfect dessert to take along to a potluck!

½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
6-7 peeled, pared, diced apples
½ c. nuts, optional (if using, I use walnuts)
Cinnamon and nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add the egg and vanilla and stir.
4. Add the apples and nuts, if using.
5. Top with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake in a greased pie pan or small cake pan for roughly 30 minutes, or until apples are soft.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Celebrity Chef Stamps!
stampsJust when I was wondering what this week’s endorsement was going to be, I saw this story!

I can’t believe it! Stamps of my favorite chefs! Julia Child! James Beard! You can be guaranteed I will be in line at my post office Saturday morning to pick up a sleeve or two of these! They’re so beautiful, they will only be used for letters only, no bills!

Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine

While last week I extolled the virtues of extending summer a wee bit, I am now head over heels in love with autumn. The apple orchards are open, squashes are filling the produce departments, and for the first time this season, we turned the heat on to take the chill out of the living room. I’ve discovered something about myself recently; despite loving summer and summer cooking, I truly am a cold-weather cook. Even on a cooler than normal day in August, my thoughts went to roasted chicken, chili, homemade bread, anything to warm the house and soul. So I am thrilled that the season is finally upon us (although not too thrilled about the idea of snow, the dark days, and really cold weather), and that the weather is now perfect for making warm, comforting stews like this one.

I’ve made this recipe twice and both times it was a hit. The first time I substituted grape tomatoes for the Sun Golds and rice instead of quinoa, and it was just as good. The second time I followed it to the letter (served with red quinoa cooked in chicken broth–yum!) and it was delicious. It’s a perfect fall dish, served with a simple green salad, you can rest assured you won’t be adding to your waistline. And it’s quick! Chop everything ahead of time and you just stand and stir. Plus it makes fabulous leftovers!

tagine
Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine
This recipe originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup zucchini mixture)

1 cup water
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups Sun Gold or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring 1 cup water, quinoa, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

2. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes begin to release their liquid. Add chickpeas and zucchini. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Serve zucchini mixture with quinoa.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Eating Well on a Budget
Perhaps it is the same everywhere, but I’m finding food, that is, good for you food, more and more expensive in the past few years. This question of how to eat healthy on a tight budget recently was posed on www.thekitchn.com. I am always looking for helpful hints on how to lower my grocery bill. While I’m familiar with most of the suggestions I know, I still found a few new ones that I’ll try! What are your best hints? I like to buy dried beans instead of canned and cook them up, as well as buying spices in bulk so I get as much–or as little–as I want. Plus, they are fresher!

Eat well on a tight budget.

Warm Roasted Peaches and Cream

Apologies in advance to anyone who received the unwritten sneak peek at this story on Sunday. I’ve learned a valuable lesson, I’ve lost all capacity to multitask!

Each week I come home with lots of fruits and vegetables from the supermarket with the intention of cooking them up into delicious recipes, yet sometimes that doesn’t work out. An impulsive dinner out or a swifter dinner than planned because it’s late can change any evening. But instead of tossing out these limp and sad-looking orbs, I extend their life by roasting!

I know more than once I’ve extolled the virtues of roasting fruits and vegetables. If there is anything that looks like it has one foot in the compost pile, I cut it up, pop it in a pan with some olive oil, and roast. And the best thing about roasting is you can leave it in the oven and not worry how long to cook; sometimes the longer it cooks, the better it is!

Last fall I brought your roasted fall fruit—and we’re now getting into pear and apple season! This year, I wanted to extend summer a little bit further into September. One night when I was doing dishes, I noticed a bowl filled with peaches I had bought to make a pie but never got around to making. They were starting to turn and I either need to eat them or toss them; with the Eater of the House out of town, there was no way I was going to have my favorite pie on the counter—I’d be a full-sized kitchen when he returned home! But roasting them topped with a few drops of cream, that I could do.

After removing the skins, I added them to a oven-proof baking pan with a little bit of butter, a dash of sugar and nutmeg, and roasted them at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. Once they start roasting, the juices come out, so just a little bit of the butter and sugar will go a long way–or use none at all if you prefer. Spooned into a bowl and with just a little bit of cream, I found it a very comforting and homey dessert.

The thermometer said it was in the 80s inside and I was a fool to turn on the oven, but for that evening, I was glad to extend the summertime heat for at least one more time.

peaches

Warm Roasted Peaches and Cream
Peaches, remove the skin with a paring knife
Butter, a couple of teaspoons
A sprinkle of sugar, white or brown, about 1 teaspoon
A few dashes of nutmeg and/or cinnamon
Cream for topping, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Add the sliced peaches to a pan and top with butter and nutmeg. Roast until the peaches are soft. When still warm, serve in a small dish with just a few drops of cream.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Try Something New!

watermelon radish
Do you know what this is?

I didn’t either until the other day. It’s a watermelon radish, which is an heirloom Chinese Daikon radish! (You can read more about it here.) But purchasing this got me thinking. Every week I usually buy the same fruits and vegetables, but I love it when I find something new to try! So if you’re at the farmer’s market or the coop, pick up a new-to-you fruit or vegetable. Don’t worry how to cook or prepare; there are a million recipes for everything on the Internet. So this week, try something new and expand your horizons; you might just find a new favorite! (My next vegetable to try is celery root. Ever seen one? They’re kind of scary looking, but people swear it’s delicious!)

celeryroot

 

Honey-Glazed Pork Chops + Tomato Salad + Corn Cakes

When we have company, I pull out the stops. It won’t be the usual dinner of some chopped veggies with chicken sausages or a quick pasta, I like to make a full meal. So when the Eater of the House’s mother was visiting for a week, I planned nutritious, yet fairly easy full meals to make for work night dinners.

This recipe might sound like a lot, pork chops, salad, and corn cakes, but it honestly came together fairly easily—and Cooking Light was correct in that it took about 40 minutes from beginning to end! While the pork chops are cooking, you can make up the corn cakes and since they are small, they’re quick to cook.

I used boneless pork chops, because they were on sale, and cooked up five of them, so there would be some leftover (they were terrific warmed for lunch!). I didn’t have fresh thyme, so dried worked, just use and used about a half a teaspoon. The corn cakes might have been the best part of the meal; crispy on the outside, and creamy and crunchy with the fresh corn. The addition of the scallions was perfect. Mmmm…..I’m getting hungry!

Reminiscing about this delicious meal made me think I should pull out all the stops for week night dinners more often!

 

pork corn fritters
Honey-Glazed Pork Chops with Tomato Salad and Corn Cakes
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 pork chop, about 2 teaspoons sauce, and about 3/4 cup salad)

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
3 cups baby spinach leaves
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine tomatoes, 1 teaspoon oil, thyme, and garlic on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan. Roast at 425° for 17 minutes.

3. Combine honey, cider vinegar, and mustard in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle pork evenly with salt and pepper. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan. Add stock to pan; cook 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Remove pan from heat; stir in honey mixture.

4. Place tomatoes, spinach, and balsamic vinegar in a bowl; toss to coat. Serve salad with pork and sauce.

Silver Dollar Corn Cakes

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 4 corn cakes)

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Combine buttermilk and egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in cornmeal mixture, corn kernels, and green onions. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 8 (1-tablespoon) mounds batter to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side. Remove corn cakes from pan. Repeat with remaining batter to yield 16 corn cakes total.

MVK Tip: To cut off kernels off of a corn cob, you need a sharp knife and a large bowl. Place the cob, flat side up, vertical in the bowl and cut down in a sawing motion, making sure you’re right at the bottom of the kernels.  Continue until all the kernels are removed. Once you do this a few times, it’s really easy!

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thekitchn.com
If you are looking for a website that is a fantastic collection of tips, hints, and recipes, this is it! It was one of those “Suggested for You” websites on Facebook, and for once they got it right! If you “like” them on Facebook, you will find tons of tips in your news feed. “16 Smart Tips for Healthier Lunches,” “17 Easy Breakfast Recipes You Can Make with Eggs,” as well as stand alone recipes, and kitchen tips (how to organize your cupboards, how to test if baking soda and baking powder has expired). This is one of those websites that I find a little overwhelming, as there is SO much to read, you can lose an hour or two just discovering and learning new things!

Mission: Possible

Note the deep yellow hues in the field. Autumn is coming.

Note the deep yellow hues in the field. Autumn is coming.

No Meat

No Seafood

No Gluten

No Dairy

I’ve found myself being invited to a lot of potlucks this summer. In these days of food sensitivities, cooking for a crowd has become a bit more challenging than it used to be; no longer can I make a quick pasta salad with pieces of meat and cheese. I put a lot of thought into what I make so I’m sure everyone can have a helping; now, whether people eat it is another story, but at least I’ve attempted to offer a dish that can be eaten by all. The Eater of the House has noted through the years that while I make a healthy dish to share, that sometimes they aren’t that appealing. Hence the bean salads I’ve brought home because no one wanted them. (Insert sad face.)

The above was the list for the latest dinner party I attended. I fretted for days over what to make; every time I thought of something, it had one of the ingredients not to include. Cucumbers and tomatoes are in season right now, so I thought of an easy caprese salad, but I couldn’t use mozzarella. Then I thought of my cucumber salad, but I couldn’t use the sour cream. But what if I combined the cucumbers and tomatoes with other ingredients? With some leftover beans I defrosted in the freezer, I was well on my way!

This a terrific base-line salad, in that you can take the original recipe and add what you’d like to it: leftover chicken, salmon, or shrimp; feta cheese; even pasta all would be good additions to this, making it an entrée. Also herbs! I wanted to add some fresh basil, but didn’t have any, but I know that would add great flavor, or chives, mint, or dill. Try different veggies–crunchy red peppers, celery, kohlrabi would be delicious. The reason for the corn was I had one ear left in the vegetable bin, but I wish I had more. (And that ingredient is totally optional!) For the dressing, I used red wine vinegar, but another flavored vinegar or even lemon would be great. I measured it by the capful until I got the right acidity that I liked.

But best of all, the salad fit the bill and is relatively low in calories! And this time, I brought home an empty bowl! (Insert happy face!)

salad2
Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas

Both tomatoes and cucumbers are water-filled vegetables, so I seed them as much as possible to avoid a soppy salad. To seed the tomatoes, I cut them into fourths and just remove a bit of the seeds before dicing.

1 can of chickpeas, or about 2 cups
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 cups cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped into large chunks
The kernels from one ear of corn (optional)
4 radishes, sliced thinly
A couple of tablespoons of scallions
Olive oil and red wine vinegar, to taste (a few teaspoons each)
Salt and pepper

Add all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and vinegar and toss gently.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Nutritional Weight and Wellness, Minnesota

A few years ago I discovered the podcast, “Weight and Wellness,” produced by the nutritionists at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, http://www.weightandwellness.com/ which has locations surrounding the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Each week, they tackle a subject where nutrition can help you solve your physical ailments, from aching joints, menopause symptoms, anxiety and depression, and the list goes on. I always walk away with a list of tips and recipes.

Their website is a fountain of nutritional information and resources and they have four online classes you can take!  http://www.weightandwellness.com/services/online-classes/. I have yet to take one, but I plan to in the near future!

BLT Pasta

At least once a week during the summer, I make pasta for dinner. Normally it’s pesto, because it’s basil season and hands down it’s my favorite meal; I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week and I would never grow tired of it. But sometimes it’s fun to change it up!

Once in a blue moon, I’ll order a BLT for lunch as I always find cooking bacon at home leaves the smell lingering way longer than it takes to actually eat it. But making this dish in the summer when you can open the windows was worth the bacon-smelling kitchen! Although I had regular penne in the cupboard, I decided to try the mezze (mini) penne that is suggested, and with grape tomatoes on the counter and baby spinach in the fridge, it was a quick and easy weeknight dinner!

blt pasta

BLT Pasta
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups)

8 ounces uncooked mezze penne pasta
6 center-cut bacon slices
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce fresh Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 6 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add tomatoes and salt to drippings in pan; cook 3 minutes or until tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and pasta to pan; cook 1 minute or just until spinach begins to wilt, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle pasta with bacon, pepper, and cheese.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A Super Easy Method to Separate Eggs
A friend sent me this video of how to separate eggs with a water bottle. I was skeptical even after watching the video, because it looked so easy, I didn’t think there was a way that it work. So one morning before scrambling my eggs I decided to try it. And it really works! It just scoops it up! I will definitely do this next time I need to separate eggs!

You can watch the video here.