Monthly Archives: March 2011

meatless mondays: lentil madness…

March Madness? Nahhh. I could care less about basketball. I’m suffering from my own form of madness…Lentil Madness!

I must be low on iron or some crazy old wives’ tale. I have been craving lentils lately. Maybe because I’ve been experimenting with delicious lentil recipes this past month, I’ve just rediscovered how much I love these little pods of protein. I just can’t get enough. I’ve been eating them at least once a week!

Lentils come in a multitude of varieties: red, yellow, orange, green, french, basic brown, etc. Most are interchangeable, but you’ll want to use a more firm variety, like french/green, for beans cooked for salads or side dishes. You can also achieve a firmer lentil by reducing the cook time.

Lentils are super easy to cook. Start with dried beans, rinsed and sorted (look for small stones that could be mixed in). They don’t require any pre-soaking as other legumes do. Mix one cup of lentils to 3 cups of liquids (I prefer to make them using vegetable broth instead of just water, although either or a combo of both works just fine too). Bring to a boil and then let simmer, adding more fluids if needed. They take 20-30 minutes to cook.

Lentils are not only easy to make, their nutritional stats read nicely too. They are high in folate, magnesium, and vitamin B1. They are well known for their high fiber too, which helps contribute to lower cholesterol. Fiber also helps manage blood sugar disorders by preventing levels from rapidly rising after a meal.

Lentils are a good source of iron and protein, especially the amino acids isoleucine and lysine. Add to the list that they are also low in fat and calories (unlike animal sources of protein and iron), and hello, we are talking “super food” here! To top it all off, they are very filling and satisfying.

Lentil soup is always a favorite of mine (especially with mushrooms added in), but I have also been enjoying spiced lentils with spinach, cold lentil salad, and Indian Dal lately.

Recipe: Spiced Lentils with Spinach

1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and sorted
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
2 tsp tumeric (you could use curry powder as a substitute)
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on your desired heat)
salt and pepper to taste
~1 pound fresh spinach, washed and lightly chopped

Saute onion in olive oil, for about 3 minutes. Add lentils and all liquids. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Add seasonings and mix well. Add spinach, wilting it into the mixture. (Add an additional 1/2 cup of water if needed to absorb the spinach into the lentils.) Simmer until most of the water is gone and the spinach is soft, about 10 minutes.

Serve with naan or any other desired bread. Could also be served over rice or quinoa. (Feel free to add garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, or any other spices to this dish). This makes quite a large pot of beans, so if its only for one or two people, you might want to halve it. Unless you love it as much as I do!


meatless mondays: spring forward into falafel…

Happy almost Spring to you! This is the time of year where I start to come out of my winter hum-drum hibernation. I start adding more dates to my social calendar, try to get outside for a walk on a sunny day, and anxiously await the reopening of the farmer’s markets!

While I’m not feeling the spring in my step this first full day of work on the new “spring forward” clock, I’m still happy to have so much more light in the evening. I’m feeling creative in my kitchen again and ready to move on from my winter staples of soup and casseroles.

Tonight, I’m making a middle eastern delight: falafel! There are powdered mixes you can buy, but it turns out much more flavorful if you make it from scratch using chick peas. You can eat them on their own as little bite size nuggets dipped in the yogurt sauce, or you can wrap them in a pita for a more sandwich-like meal. I also like them in a salad, using the yogurt sauce as dressing.

Recipe: Homemade Falafel

For Falafel:
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 Tbs tahini
1 large egg
2 Tbs grated lemon zest
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt (or to taste)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbs finely chopped onion
2 Tbs chopped parsley
½ tsp baking powder
Olive oil, for frying (optional)

For Yogurt Sauce:
2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
3 Tbs chopped cilantro
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs grated lemon zest
1 Tbs ground cumin

Optional sandwich fixings:
pita bread
hot sauce

To make Falafel: Pulse chickpeas, tahini, egg, lemon zest, cumin, garlic, lemon juice, coriander, chili powder, and salt in blender or food processor until mostly smooth, but still chunky. Transfer to bowl, and stir in flour, onion, parsley, and baking powder.

Shape 1/4 cup chickpea mixture into 1-inch-thick patty or round ball, and place on platter. Repeat with remaining chickpea mixture. (Falafel patties can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.)

Pour enough olive oil into large skillet to have 1/4 inch in bottom. Heat over medium-high heat. Place patties in pan, making sure patties don’t touch. Cook 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Transfer to paper-towel-lined platter to drain. Repeat with remaining patties. (Or you can lightly spray with olive oil and bake for about 25 minutes for a healthier option.)

To make Yogurt Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Build a falafel wrap using pita bread or a tortilla, a smear of hummus, falafel, yogurt sauce and top with lettuce, tomato, and a hot sauce (like Tapatio or Sriracha).

Nutritional Information
(per 1 patty serving with 2 Tbs Yogurt Sauce):
Calories: 188, Protein: 8g, Total fat: 8g, Saturated fat: 1g, Carbs: 22g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 383mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 4g

meatless mondays: i love you mark bittman…

Today I’d like to share a video from my favorite food journalist, Mark Bittman. Although it is a little dated, it is more relevant than ever. What he says just makes plain and simple sense.

He is not a vegetarian and is actually a great lover of meat. But he understands that we can’t overconsume animals, for our own health or the well-being of the planet. He calls himself a “Less-meatarian”. Less quantity, better quality. What a great concept!

Over the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed Bittman’s New York Times column, The Minimalist which he recently brought to an end. He has a blog and continues to write for the NYT weekend magazine though, so I am still able to cyberstalk him. 🙂

He has written several incredible cookbooks. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian gets the most use of any book I own. His newer Food Matters Cookbook is on my buy list. His style is more of a base recipe with ideas of all kinds of variations and substitutions. Plus he explains how to choose, store, and prepare different items, which makes experimenting in the kitchen less intimidating.

I love his views on food and our consumption of meat. He breaks it down in such a no-nonsense way. Instead of trying to emulate his eloquence, I’ll just let the man speak for himself:

Here is a recipe from Mark Bittman, in his own words:

Recipe: Braised and Glazed Butternut Squash

This is your go-to recipe for everyday winter squash; it will work with any variety, but I usually turn to butternut because it’s so much easier to deal with than all the others. Once you peel and cut the squash, you braise it in a small amount of liquid, then boil off the remaining moisture to glaze it. Other vegetables you can use: any winter squash (except spaghetti), though they will all be more difficult to cut and peel than butternut.

Quick Info:
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
11/2 pounds butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup vegetable stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley leaves for garnish

1. Put the oil and garlic in a large, deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. When the garlic begins to color, add the squash and stock and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Uncover the pan and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally and stirring somewhat less often, until all the liquid is evaporated and the squash has begun to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn the heat back down to low and cook until the squash is as browned and crisp as you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish, and serve.