4.19.2014

Amy's Favorite Lentil Soup

I know for some of the U.S., that nasty winter weather is still holding on.  In Eastern Washington we have been experiencing  the usual sporadic spring weather we are used to, but in light of the rainy conditions the last few days, I thought a nice warming soup was in order.

If you talk to just about any plant-based vegetarian, they all have their own spin on lentil soup.  My mom's lentil soup comes with just about every veggie under the sun, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, depending on what she has in her fridge at the time.  My version is a little bit more simple, but o'boy is it good!

What makes lentil soups such a popular go-to?  First off, lentils are easy-peasy to cook up in a soup from dried lentils.  Most types of dried lentils cook within 30 minutes, compared to dried beans that take soaking and cooking for a few hours (unless you have a pressure cooker, that is).  Lentils also have a great texture and go along very well with all sorts of veggies.  Lentil soups are also welcoming to all sorts of spice, herb, and flavor combinations.  I have tried a lentil soup that even added in some fresh lemon juice at the end, and it was an interesting and delicious kick!

For my household, lentil soup is always a favorite.  Even my husband, who is a die-hard meat and potatoes man, comes home at the end of the day wanting some of "whatever smells so good in our kitchen."  Over time, I have found that I can sneak in more veggies for Kevin if I chop them very small into a soup, but feel free to make your lentil soup as chunky as you want!

Amy's Favorite Lentil Soup
Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:
    Vegetables: approximately 4 cups total
        2 cloves garlic, pressed
        1/4 large yellow onion, finely chopped
        3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
        2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
        4-6 mushrooms, roughly chopped
    Lentils: 1+1/2 cups total, rinsed and drained
        1/2 cup dry brown lentils
        1/2 cup dry french green lentils
        1/2 cup dry red lentils
    Liquid and Spices:
        4 cups water
        2 cups vegetable stock
        1/2 Tbsp no-salt seasoning
        1 tsp cumin spice
        1 bay leaf
        pepper to taste

Instructions:
1.)  Chop all vegetables as desired.  You can add or subtract any vegetables depending on your personal tastes or what you happen to have on hand, but make sure it adds up to 4 cups of chopped veggies.
2.)  Over medium heat in a large soup pot or dutch oven, dry sauté the garlic and chopped vegetables until tender and the onion in partially translucent, stirring frequently.
3.)  Add the lentils, liquids, and spices to the pot, stirring to combine.  Bring to a simmer, then turn to medium low heat and cover, simmering for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked.
4.)  Remove the bay leaf, season with pepper, and serve steaming hot.

Amy's Notes:
Feel free to make this lentil soup to your tastes.  If you hate celery, but love broccoli, switch them out.  Or, if you have some Brussels sprouts that you are needing to use up, chop those up and throw them in!

Similarly with the lentils, if you don't have red lentils and just want to use brown lentils, feel free to mix up the lentil ratios!  Just make sure to add 1.5 cups of dried lentils total.

If you would like even more veggies in your soup, add some greens at the end of cooking.  If you would like to do this, then at the end of simmering, add in some washed and chopped dark greens.  Stir over the heat until the greens are wilted and serve.  I added some spinach to mine today, but and dark green such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, beet greens, etc. would work just fine.

This recipe is great to make ahead of time and reheat throughout the week.  Sometimes I make a double batch and freeze half of it for meals to defrost in the future.  Like many soups, this one tastes even better the next day!
What do you put in your version of lentil soup?

4.18.2014

Whole Grain Waffles for Easter Sunday

Today I am excited to share with you a recipe from my mom.  I have mentioned several times before that my parents also follow a Nutritarian lifestyle, so I am lucky enough to be able to go home and have it be a safe haven of eating!

Since becoming a Nutritarian in the summer of 2011, my mom has found a handful of recipes that are her regular go-to meals, including teriyaki chickpea and pineapple rice, Thai veggie pizza, black bean and veggie fajitas, lentil soup, black bean burgers, and Kitty's Asian Slaw.  Recently she has added a waffle recipe that she created, into her rotation.  I couldn't think of anything more delicious and filling to have for Easter brunch than her Whole Grain Waffles topped with peanut butter and organic maple syrup, with some orange slices on the side.

Whole Grain Waffles for Easter Sunday

Time: 20 minutes
Servings:  2-4

Ingredients:
        1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flaxseed meal & 2.5 Tbsp water)
        1 Tbsp molasses
        1 ripe banana
        6 dates (or about 1/4 cup)
        1/2 Tbsp baking powder
        1 cup plant-based milk (more to thin)
        1 cup whole wheat flour
        1/4 cup ground old fashioned oats
Instructions:
  1. Preheat waffle iron while you prepare the batter.
  2. Stir together the flaxseed meal and water, and set aside.
  3. In a high speed blender, blend the plant milk, molasses, banana, and dates until smooth and creamy.
  4. Mix your dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.  Mix in blended banana mixture and flaxseed.
  5. Stir well to combine, adding more plant milk to thin to the correct consistency.
  6. Coat your waffle iron with non-stick spray and pour the batter in.  Cook until as crispy as you like it.
  7.  Serve with fresh fruit, nut butter, or your favorite syrup.
Kitty's Notes:
As you are cooking a batch of this, the batter tends to thicken up, so thin with more almond milk if it becomes too thick.  We like to have our waffles with natural peanut butter and organic maple syrup.  It would also be delicious to have some blended fresh berries or mashed banana on top if you are trying to watch your added sugar intake.  We have never tried making this recipe as a pancake, but the batter should be able to cook in a similar way.   If you try this, please let us know how it went in the comment section!

4.17.2014

Chickpea Marinara Sauce

Last night was the first night in a while that we had no plans other than to stay in for a home cooked meal.  I have mentioned many times before that my husband is still a meat and potatoes guy, so that means for a homecooked meal, I need to make two... yay?  He requested one of his all-time favorite meals: mashed potatoes with chicken strips and broccoli.  I though potatoes sounded pretty good too, but I opted to have a baked yam instead.  To top my yam off, I decided to make this yummy marinara sauce that is partially homemade.

To cook the sweet potato, heat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Wash your potato of choice (russet, golden, or sweet potatoes will work perfectly too), and peirce some holes with a fork throughout.  Wrap each potato in foil (no oil needed!) and place in the oven.  Set the timer for 30 minutes and flip.  Check on the potato after 30 more minutes if it is done.  Mine usually take 1 hour, but time will depend on your oven and the size of your potato.

Chickpea Marinara Sauce
Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2-4
Ingredients:
        1/4 onion, finely chopped
        2 cloves garlic, pressed
        1/2 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
        1- 16 oz can marinara pasta sauce of your choice
        1- 16 oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added if you can find it
        1+1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, or 1- 16 oz can chickpeas drained and rinsed
        1 Tbsp no salt seasoning
Instructions:
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, water saute the onion and garlic.  Once the onion and garlic become fragrant and slightly translucent, add the chopped mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
  3. Serve over a baked potato or whole wheat pasta.  You can top with fresh parsley, green onion, nutritional yeast, black olives, or any other toppings you desire.
Amy's Notes:
This sauce turned out nicely thick to top a baked potato perfectly.  You could also top any type of whole wheat pasta or whole grain.  I bet this would be great on top of barley.  The nice thing about this sauce is that it ends up with that homemade feel, without having to make a tomato sauce from scratch.  Since it has one can of (no salt) diced tomatoes to one can of marinara sauce, it is going to have a lot less sodium than just a jar of pasta sauce.