Loving Lentils


Lentils are one of those power foods that are high in fiber, protein, an array of minerals and vitamins and is low in carbs. It’s a great legume that is easy to cook, can be flavored a variety of ways and gives you staying power to keep you feeling full longer. While I’ve cooked them before primarily in soups and other dishes, I don’t often highlight it as the gem it is.

This week I wanted to introduce myself to a new whole grain and decided barley would pair well with lentils. Barley is also loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals and is known for being a heart healthy option because of it does not contain cholesterol, a known contributor to heart disease. Typically as a whole grain, it takes longer to cook like brown rice; however I saw a 10 minute bag of barley in Trader Joe’s that I thought was just too good to pass up. I cooked the lentils in stock and dried herbs and the barley on a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt to add as much flavor as possible to them both. Since I also am a fan of sour cream or guacamole on my beans I made a quick little topping of sour cream, a splash of rice wine vinegar fresh chives and salt and pepper to top it. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts!

Lentils ingredients (serves 4)
8 oz lentils
16 oz organic chicken or organic vegetable stock
2 cups of water
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Barley ingredients:
1/2 cup dry barley
1 1/4 cups of water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt

Lentils Directions:
1. Add liquids to a medium pot with herbs, vinegar and seasoning. Bring to a boil.
2. While boiling pick through lentils for debris then add lentils.
3. Set timer. Top, reduce to low heat and cook for 35-40 minutes.

Barley Directions:
1. During last 15 minutes if lentil cooking, add barley and liquid to a small pot and bring to a boil. Add oil, vinegar and salt and stir before topping and reduce heat to low.
2. Let cook 10 minutes and strain any extra liquid.
3. Serve with lentils and enjoy


Vegan Believin’


Since I’ve dabbled in vegetarian meal options, I thought it was only fair to venture into the vegan arena. While similar, the primary difference is that vegan excludes any animal product or by-product including dairy, eggs and honey. While I like to explore different foods, flavors and textures, I don’t subscribe to really any diet beyond balance in all things. Plant-based proteins are important for maintaining overall health and balance; however there are other nutrients found in seafood and lean animal proteins that are not found in plants. In addition to the proteins (whatever the source), adding more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are always on my agenda.

I was inspired to do a Vegan dish with my trip to Trader Joe’s where they were sampling a vegan kale, cashew and basil pesto. I decided to make a quick orzo dish with the pesto, Roma tomatoes, roasted yellow peppers and grilled and marinated artichoke hearts. I picked up a small bag of cashews for some added texture. Let me just say, nothing is better than being surprised with a new delicious go to! And at about $3.60/serving, that’s hard to beat.

The only thing missing was a protein. So instead of adding beans to the dish, I decided to make my first red bean cake with a can of organic red beans ($.99), some fresh herbs, spices like coriander, smoked paprika and sautéed garlic and onion. I was beyond surprised at how good it was and totally forced samples on friends at lunch. 🙂 The only thing I would do differently is to add panko breadcrumbs to give more texture and shape as I had to handle them delicately with the spatula.

To give the red bean cake moisture for lunch, I made a quick garlic avocado aioli at work to go with my lunch which was basically smashed avocado, grated garlic, lots of lemon juice and salt and pepper. This also would be great as spread for a red bean sandwich with either arugula or a lettuce of choice. Check out the recipe below and certainly share your thoughts!

Orzo Pesto ingredients (makes 4)
1 1/4 cup of orzo
4 oz kale cashew basil pesto (1/2 container)
1 cup diced tomato (about 2)
1 cup chopped grilled and marinated artichoke hearts (or canned)
1/2 cup chopped roasted peppers
2 tbsp. fresh basil chopped
2 tbsp. chopped cashews
1tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Red bean cake ingredients (makes 4):
1 15.5 oz can of organic red beans
1/2 cup sautéed onions
1 tbsp. sautéed garlic
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup flour

Garlic Avocado Aioli:
1 small ripe avocado
1/2 of a lemon juiced
1 clove grated or 1 tsp. minced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and dice onion and add to a small skillet with 1/2 cup of water over medium heat. Mince garlic and add to skillet. Cook both for 5 minutes ubfik water evaporates and set aside.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil for orzo. While booking, open and rinse can of beans. Add to a medium-sized bowl and mash with a fork until no beans are whole. Rinse and dice cilantro.
3. Add orzo to boiling water and set timer for 8 minutes. Add cilantro and spices to bean mixture and mix well.
4. Rinse and dice tomato by cutting around the seeded core (save for salsa) and slice and dice each fourth of the tomato. Add to a large bowl.
5. Open jars of roasted peppers and artichoke hearts and chop the appropriate amount of each. Add to the bowl.
6. Rinse skillet from earlier and add olive oil over medium heat. While it heats, strain the orzo and add to the bowl of veggies.
7. Add flour to a plate or shallow dish. With gloved hands, form beans into balls (it will fall into patty) and coat lightly in flour before adding to hot oil. cook for 2 minutes per side as remove from heat.
8. Add pesto to orzo and tear basil to fold in. Chop or crush cashews (optional).

Aioli Directions:
1. Cut avocado in half. Scoop halves out into a bowl or small cup and mash with a fork.
2. Grate garlic and add. Cut lemon in half and squeeze over avocado seeded side up. Mix well.
3. Salt and pepper to taste.

International Eats


With the ever changing weather from cold to warm to cold again, and the increase of the sniffles and cases of the crud around me, I am ramping up on immune boosters, natural antibiotics like raw minced garlic and spicy soups to clear out the sinuses and protect my health.

In addition to cooking, I love to read and was delighted to be given a travel food magazine called Milk Street from which I was introduced to Lablabi, a delicious and spicy chickpea soup from Tunisia. I actually ended up making two small pots since I could not get enough of the bright and complex flavors in the soup. I also tried making one pot with harissa and one with the Chinese chili sauce that is easier to find in more stores and was pleased that both were great. This soup combines Spanish flavors like olives, capers and cilantro with North African spices like harissa. I was intrigued to learn that this soup is traditionally a breakfast in Tunisia and is usually more combined like a porridge. I decided not to mash everything together and have more whole and identifiable ingredients. Color me lazy. I decided to work with canned organic chickpeas instead of dried for a quicker cooking time on a busy night. Even with the chickpeas in the dish last week, I was still inspired to use more chickpeas. This soup took about 30 minutes to make. Now if you prefer your chickpeas super soft then I would recommend adding 15 minutes of cook time. Check out the recipe below.

Lablabi (Makes 4)

2 cups of large chopped French bread or ciabatta
1/4 cup harissa or alternate spicy chili sauce
1 can or organic low sodium chickpeas
1 cup diced onion
1/8 cup minced garlic (6-8 large cloves)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups water
32 oz chicken stock or broth
4 boiled eggs
6 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
6 tbsp. chopped cilantro
4 tbsp. chopped olives
4 tbsp. capers
3 tbsp. olive oil (garlic infused optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and dice onion and add to a medium pot over medium heat with a splash of water and 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
2. Smash and peel garlic cloves before chopping fine and add to pot. Stir well.
3. Add tomato paste and harissa and stir well. Rinse the can of chickpeas in cool water and add chickpeas and water to the pot. Top and bring to a boil for 20 minutes.
4. While that boils, line a small baking dish or sheet with foil. Slice bread and cube into large pieces. Place on baking sheet and toss with olive oil.
5. Bring eggs to boil in a separate small pot.
6. Add stock or broth and boil another 10-15 minutes. Add bread to oven.
7. While boiling, chop olives and fresh herbs. Remove eggs and rinse with cool water. Peel eggs.
8. Turn off pots and remove bread from oven.
9. Add a handful of bread to each bowl, top with soup mixture. Add 1 tbsp. of capers, olives and 1 1/2 tbsp. of parsley and cilantro to each bowl and one egg cut longwise.
10. Enjoy!



Veg Forward Meals



I decided to cleanse my palate with a couple vegetarian dishes this week and decided on a chickpea and millet salad with an array of sliced veggies in a citrus vinaigrette. This dish took 20 minutes to make and will hold up well in the fridge this week. I decided to use canned organic chickpeas and at 99 cents at Trader Joe’s, it was an easy yes to pay and extra 20 cents for the organic option. Regardless it is still important to rinse any canned beans to remove extra salt from your dish.

As a second meal this week, since I am still craving avocado and have the fixings, I’m thinking another round of veggie bowls are in order with some black beans, sautéed mushroom, onion and peppers with cilantro rice, sour cream and fresh guacamole. The rice, beans and sautéed vegetables can all be prepared ahead of time where the only thing to make is fresh guacamole per serving which takes all of three minutes.

Check out the recipe below for the chickpea and millet salad. If you are interested in the veggie bowl dish, I have posted a similar recipe in my A Bowl of Fun post.

1/2 cup millet dry
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup sliced asparagus
1 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup diced yellow or red onion
1 14 oz can organic chickpeas
4 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tbsp. chopped orange mint (or reg. mint)
1/2 cup sliced mushroom
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (2 juicing oranges)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Toast millet over medium high heat for 2 minutes by gently shaking the pot and flipping the millet with a fork or spoon. Add water and bring to a boil and then reduce heat, top it (to cook like rice) for 15 minutes.
2. While the millet cooks, wipe mushrooms (about 4) and slice thinly and set aside. Peel and dice a small onion and add about 1/2 cup and mushrooms to a small skillet. Sauté over medium heat for three minutes to soften.
3. Rinse asparagus. Take one spear and bend lightly until it breaks naturally. Use this as a measurement to cut remaining spears. Thinly slice asparagus on an angle and set pile aside.
4. Rinse and dice one to two small tomatoes and set aside. Rinse and chop parsley and mint.
5. Add onion and mushroom mix to a medium-sized bowl and other vegetables. Once millet is cooked and still hot, add on top of the veggies and mix well. The steam with help soften the vegetables.
6. Open and rinse the can of chickpeas and add to the bowl. Rinse and roll the lemon and oranges and cut each in half. Add the herbs and juice oranges and half a lemon directly over the mixture.
7. Mix well and salt and pepper to taste. (Start with 1 tsp. of sea salt and a coarse black pepper.)
8. Enjoy!

A Bit Of Mexican


This dish started out as black beans and cilantro-lime rice and turned into my version of a chipotle bowl. Because it can be topped so many ways, this is certainly a dish I can repurpose many ways this week. The black beans in this dish can be either dried or canned. If you do make them dried, you will need 16 oz of dried beans, 8 cups of water, the same amount of peppers and double the remaining ingredients. I would also recommend making them on Saturday or the night before the beans will be used. I love Mexican-themed food and this is an easy one to make to please any crowd. Below are the ingredients for the chicken, beans and rice with the toppings I used. You can always add cheese, lettuce or any rich greens and green onion if preferred. Check out the recipe and share your thoughts!

Serves 4

Black beans ingredients:
1/2 cup cooked black beans per bowl
2 seeded and diced Serrano peppers
1 seeded and diced jalepeno pepper
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
1 cup of water

Rice ingredients:
1 cup of rice 1/2 cup per bowl
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro
1 2/3 cup of water
1 juiced lime (about 1/8 cup)

Chicken ingredients:
4 to 6 chicken thighs (approx. 1 per bowl depending on size)
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup sliced sweet peppers
1 cup sliced yellow onion
1/2 cup of water

1/2 cup diced tomato
2 tbsp. salsa per bowl
1/4 cup diced tomato per bowl
1/2 tbsp. sour cream per bowl
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp. coarse black pepper
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)
2-3 slices of avocado dressed with lime

1. In a small pot, rinse rice. You will need 1 1/2 cups of liquid so with the lime juice, add the remaining amount of water. Bring to a boil, then top and reduce to low heat for 20 minutes.
2. If cooking canner black beans, rinse and add to a medium-sized pot. With gloved hands, slice and dice the jalepeno and Serrano peppers. Add seasonings and simmer over low heat.
3. Add coconut oil over medium heat to a medium-sized skillet. While the oil heats, rinse chicken and add half of the seasoning. Add to pan and sear for 3 minutes.
4. While chicken cooks, rinse and slice sweet peppers and slice onion. Add the the remaining seasoning to the chicken and flip to cook on the other side for 3 minutes.
5. Add peppers and onions and 1/2 cup of water and move chicken on top of vegetables. Let cook for 8-12 minutes.
6. Turn off heat and add rice, then beans, chicken and vegetables and toppings preferred.

A Bit Of Alteration



While red beans and rice are a more popular go-to meal, sometimes it’s good to change things up. Field peas, like red beans, are a great source of fiber and other nutrients and make a great option for a change or an inexpensive bean meal during the week. I added oven fried chicken with a Shake n’ Bake since red beans are often eaten with fried chicken in the south. You can always add fresh herbs and spices to the mix to make it your own. This is the meal that is great to have going while your doing other things around the house as it is no fuss. I hope you give it a try.
Field Peas and oven fried chicken

1 lb dry field peas
1 lb smoked sausage
8 oz fresh or frozen green beans
10 cups of water
2 cups chopped onion
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 cup of Rice
2 cups of water
Oven fried chicken
2 drumsticks
2 wings
1 pack of shake n bake (box comes with 2)
2 tsp. fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. coarse black pepper

1. Empty peas into a bowl and rinse under cool water. Remove any debris.
2. Put a large pot on the stove over medium heat. While the pot heats, peel and chop a large onion and add it to the pot.
3. Once the onions began to sizzle, strain peas and add them to the pot.
4. Add the water and seasonings, cover and bring to a boil. Stir the pot then cover and reduce heat to medium-low.
5. Let cook for an hour. Within the last 10 minutes of the cooking, preheat the oven to the temp on the shake and bake box. Add seasoning and herbs to shake and bake mix in the included bag and coat chicken one piece at a time before placing on a foil-lined sheet pan.
6. Place chicken in the oven and add green beans to the pot and let both cook for 20 minutes.
7. Rinse and cook a cup of rice in two cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and cover.
8. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat from the stove, remove chicken from the oven, plate and enjoy.