Lemony Lentil Vegetable Stew

Have you ever wondered how recipes end up in cookbooks or magazines? I really haven't thought about it until I started testing recipes for Robyn Webb. Most times, before a recipe gets published, it gets tested by someone like me: I take careful notes on how long it takes to prepare the ingredients, cook the recipe, how many portions a recipe yields, etc. I also make recommendations on how to improve the recipe.

Sometimes, it is a very straightforward process; sometimes, it takes 2 or 3 tries before the final product is deemed good, or trashed.

On Monday I tested a Lemony Lentil & Barley soup for Robyn's upcoming vegan cookbook. I could not find barley, and we agreed I could use wheat berries. I thought the dish lacked color, flavor, and wasn't very exciting. I suggested some major changes, and Robyn agreed.

Here's a recipe I came up with: Lemony Lentil Vegetable Stew

4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 sprig rosemary
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup lentils
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 1.5 cups)
1 cup cubed baby eggplant (no need to peel)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup sliced baby carrots
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1. Put peppercorns and rosemary sprig into a cheesecloth and tie the corners.
2. In a soup pot bring the vegetable stock, lemon juice and a cheesecloth package to a boil.
3. Add lentils, sweet potatoes, and eggplant. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a non-stick skillet heat olive oil, add onions and garlic and cook for 3 minutes.
5. Add carrots, one tablespoon of water, and sea salt and cook for 6 minutes. If you want your carrots completely soft, add about 4 minutes to the cooking time.
6. Once the lentils, sweet potato and eggplant have been cooking for 20 minutes, remove the cheesecloth with peppercorns and rosemary, and add the onion/garlic/carrot mixture. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

I was so pleased with how this stew came out! You get the earthy flavors of the lentils, the sweet flavors of sweet potatoes and carrots, and the freshness and sourness of the lemon juice. It's perfect for a winter weather we are having now, but would also be good in the fall. And just think about all the nutrients you are getting!

The recipe took about 10 minutes to prep and 35 minutes to cook. It yielded 5.5 cups.

If you try this, please let me know :)

Lentils, Split Peas, and Red Jewels

A while ago, I decided to make a recipe from Mark Bittman's book: Lemony Lentil Salad. Although the recipe wasn't perfect, I thought it was pretty good. I blogged about it. That's when my friend Cindy pointed out that "Silly, lentils are not the same thing as green split peas!! Peas are more creamy and sweet, lentils taste very earthy, taste more dry."

Who would have known? Not me, certainly. Last week I was testing a recipe for Robyn Webb's upcoming vegan book. The recipe was for lemony lentil soup with barley (more on this later). This time around I actually bought lentils: and Cindy was right: they do have a more earthy flavor and keep their shape in the cooking process.

Split peas, on the other hand, are just that: peas that were dried and split in two parts. Most are either green or yellow.

I've used mine to make my mom's version of Split Pea Soup.

You can also cook and mash them for something different, or use them in stews.

And then there are these: beautiful red or orange lentils. Did you know lentils come in many colors? They can be red, green, yellow, orange, and even black!

Lentils are full of nutrients and are a good source for protein, iron and calcium.

Use lentils in salads, soups, or Indian dishes.

So, next time you are at a grocery store, pick up a bag of colorful lentils and make them for dinner. If you are looking for ideas, I have used these red lentils to make a very comforting Indian dish.

What are some of your favorite dishes to make with lentils or split peas?

The Day That Started So Promising

Wednesday late morning I was supposed to have a dentist appointment. That meant sleeping in and making an actual breakfast. [Alas, the appointment was cancelled last moment, the Metro was a mess, and the day just went downhill from there.]

This breakfast is one of my "What to do with one egg" endeavors.

The previous night for dinner I wanted to make sloppy Joes and sweet potato fries. Alas, I had no beef, and made salmon cakes instead. The sweet potato fries looked more like shredded potatoes because I still cannot figure out how to use the mandoline Cindy gave me.

Anyway, back to breakfast:
Fry an egg. Put it on top of shredded baked sweet potatoes (they were seasoned with olive oil, chili powder, and salt & pepper), and surround the whole thing with watercress. Season with salt and pepper and breakfast is served.

If you had an extra hour in the morning, what would you make for breakfast?


Why I Love Foodbuzz

I've been a member of Foodbuzz since July 2008. Since then, they had showered me with gifts from time to time: mini business cards, an apron, a spatula, a holiday card.

A few days ago, I received a thick envelope from them containing six Quaker True Delights bars for me to test. I was delighted :)

So far, I have only tried the Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut bar. I really liked the big macadamia nuts, but the banana flavor was overwhelming! And I'm really not a huge fan of bananas. It was quite filling though, and only had 140 calories!

I can't wait to try Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond one!

Thanks, Foodbuzz!

Daring Bakers Challenge: Tuiles

It's time for Daring Bakers Challenge again! I think this was the first time, other than maybe the pizza challenge, that I did not freak out after reading the directions to the challenge.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Baking Soda and Zorra of 1x umruehrenbitte aka Kochtopf . They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

You basically mix together confectionery sugar, butter, egg whites and flour. You then spread the mixture thinly on parchment paper, bake for about 5-10 minutes and shape them as soon as they come out of the oven.

I decided to make a template of a spoon from cardboard paper. It was quite difficult to cut out, but I managed. I learned that I can only do a few spoons at a time: otherwise they broke when I tried to shape them.

Below: spoons ready to bake & spoons ready to be shaped straight out of the oven

Below: not all spoons made it. Sigh. Those that did survive, got decorated with melted chocolate and topped with Pomegranate/Lime/Rum Sorbet.

For my second attempt, I decided to do slightly fancier decorations and put the melted chocolate into a Ziploc bag. Do you like it? Once again, I topped the spoons with pomegranate sorbet: it was a great contrast to the sweet crunchy cookie.


Not So Perfect Pasta Primavera

A while ago I have been sort of accused by one of my friends of always miraculously coming up with recipes that work. As if I lie about liking my food? Well, here is an example of a dish that did not work out perfectly. I'm posting this to 1) show I'm not perfect (who would have thought?) 2) ask you, my readers, for suggestions on how I can improve this dish for the next time.

Pasta Primavera

Monday nights are usually hectic because I come home, need to make dinner, and still have plenty of time to put myself together before going dancing. Luckily, this week I have done my grocery shopping on the weekend and had an idea of what I wanted to make for dinner: Pasta Primavera. Basically pasta with a bunch of vegetables.

This is not exactly a recipe because you can use any vegetables you want. I used garlic, onion, broccoli, corn, tomatoes, olives and watercress.

Here's what I did.

1) Put a large pot of water to boil (salt it well!). Cook the pasta till it's done (I used wholewheat spaghetti).

2) While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil, add chopped red onion and sliced garlic and saute for a few minutes.

3) Add broccoli florets to the garlic and onion, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

4) Add fresh corn (or I guess you could use frozen) and saute for a few more minutes. Turn the heat off, and add a bunch of halved cherry tomatoes.

5) Remove all the vegetables and put them in a bowl with watercress and cut up olives.
6) As you can see, I used a "stick" pan and there were quite a few bits and pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan. That's flavor I did not want to lose. What I did was put drained pasta in that pan and cooked it for a few minutes. This not only dried up the pasta, but also let it absorb the wonderful flavors left by the vegetables.

7) Add the pasta to the bowl with vegetables, sprinkle with shredded Parmesan, adjust the salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

The final dish wasn't horrible at all, but something seemed to be missing. Maybe I added too many olives? Maybe it would have been better with a regular white pasta? Maybe I should have used feta instead of Parmesan?



What's Growing In Your Kitchen????

If after reading the title of this post you thought I am going to talk about growing herbs in my kitchen, you are wrong. Totally wrong.

After 4 days in Savannah, I came home and found that an onion that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for at least a week has started to grow green spikes! That's not exactly the first time this has happened, but still, I thought that was pretty cool.

The green spikes are not the same as green onions, but they have similar, but stronger, flavor/taste. I'm sure I'll figure a way to incorporate them into one of my meals.

By the way, thank your lucky stars I did not take photographs of the mold that started to grow on my bread. Totally gross, but would make for a fun school projects.

So, what fun or not so fun things have grown in your kitchens lately?


Breakfast at Home: Pancakes

Last weekend, I was in Savannah and had three breakfasts out: one, two, and three.
Yesterday my breakfast consisted of a can of soup...don't ask...I was too busy watching Nip/Tuck to think about breakfast.

Today I woke up early and tested a recipe for Robyn Webb's new project: vegan cookbook. These are blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup (and I added a few fresh ones on top). YUM.

What did you all have for breakfast?


Pomegranate Sorbet

A while ago, I received 8 bottles of pomegranate juice from PomBlogger. So far, however, I just used the juice to flavor my water.

Today, I decided to do something slightly more elaborate: Pomegranate Sorbet!

8 ounces pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1-2 tablespoons rum (thanks, Anna)

1. Combine all 3 ingredients together.
2. Pour the mixture into a shallow dish and put into the freezer for 30 minutes.
3. Every 30 minutes use a fork to "rake" the mixture until it reaches sorbet consistency (mine took about 2 hours).
4. Serve in a little dish or in a glass.

Check back next week to see what else I did with this sorbet :)

Of course if you are serving this dessert to children, leave out the rum! You can make the same dessert with any other juice you like. Imagine how pretty it would be to put pomegranate sorbet in the same bowl as orange one!


My last meal in Savannah: BBQ (1/20/09)

For my last meal in Savannah, I decided to find Angel's BBQ. I can't remember where I read about this place, but it sounded like fun.

It was slightly difficult to find, but after I gave them a call (thank god for cell phones!), I was on my way to BBQ goodness.

This little restaurant is located behind a church and resembles a mom & pop shop. My glasses fogged up as I stepped into the warmth from the outside. The decor is very homey and unassuming.

I decided to order a combination of pork and beef BBQ with mac & cheese and coleslaw. This was such a great choice! The mac & cheese was hot and cheesy; the coleslaw was mustard based and light. The meat was very tender and only required a bit of extra BBQ sauce (I chose Memphis Sweet Sauce). And I had some sweet tea (don't be jealous, Laura).

While I was eating, another customer came in. She was a food producer from England! She works with Jamie Oliver! OMG, that was so exciting. Of course I chickened out and did not give her my card...I mean, what was I supposed to say? "Hi, I love Jamie Oliver. Here's my card?"


And then it was time to head back to the hotel, lose my camera case (obviously unintentionally), and head back home.

This was a great weekend getaway.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my recaps. I'm planning to do some actual cooking this weekend, so check in back later.

Last Breakfast in Savannah (1/20/09)

My last day in Savannah was Tuesday. I did not really have any plans other than to take a tour of SCAD, which started at 9:15 am. That meant I had to wake up early, check out of the hotel (I left my bag there) and find the SCAD building. And of course I needed some food.

The night before I was paging through a magazine and saw an ad for Harris Baking Company. Luckily, it was on my way to SCAD, and I found it without any problems. Tuesday was brutally cold and windy in Savannah, and I was happy to walk into this bright and happy looking place. Again, I was greeted by exposed ceilings, art on the wall, and an array of baked goods. I did not know what to get: I have a hard time making decisions, I know.

At the end, I decided to get a cup of tea and a cheese & ham croissant. The croissant was super buttery and flaky: delicious! This was just the perfect treat on such a day. Alas, I did not have time to come back and try some of the desserty things...maybe next time.

Room Service & 11:15 pm call

After a day of walking around Savannah, I was so tired. I probably also did not drink enough water (something that always happens when I travel). By the time I got back to the hotel, watched a bit of TV and took a nap, it was 6 pm. It was dark and cold, and I really did not feel like going out for dinner.

I decided to treat myself to room service, sit in bed and watch The Bachelor. That's exactly what I did. I ordered a steak dinner with rolls and salad, and it was pretty good! The Room Service people asked how I'd want to pay for it, and I told them to just put it on my card......

....well, I sort of forgot that when I checked into the hotel, I did not leave my credit card with them, but I did not think it was a big deal. I was snug in bed with TV on, when all of a sudden I get a call (on the hotel phone). It was 11:15 pm!!! Seriously? Was there a fire? Did someone decide to pay me a visit? No! They wanted to let me know that I did not have a card on file and would I like to pay for my food now. Hell to the no! I told them it was unacceptable to call so late at night and that I would deal with this issue in the morning.

In the morning, miraculously there were no charges. When I was checking out, I let the people know about my dinner fee, but they said they'll take care of it. Great! That meant I could buy a pair of earrings ;)

SOHO Cafe in Savannah (1/19/09)

For lunch I went to SOHO Cafe. This was such a cute place: exposed ceilings, art on the walls, painted tables: definitely not your every day cafe. My waitress was a bit odd, but I did not care much. I ordered their Southwest potato salad and Cuban Panini. The panini was great: plenty of cheese, meat, and mayo. The potatoes in the salad were a bit undercooked, but I felt hungry enough to eat them.

Monday Breakfast in Savannah (1/19/09)

Paige left early Monday morning, and I was tempted to stay in bed and watch the morning shows. But then I became hungry and thought I should go get some breakfast, and see more of Savannah.

Several of my on-line resources recommended Gallery Espresso. Just like most of the food establishments in Savannah, this was a combination of cafe and art gallery: many of the SCAD students display and sell their work here.

Since it was already close to 11 am, I decided to just get tea and a scone. I've never seen such an interesting tea apparatus before. You brew your tea in the upper part (see the photo below) and then put it on top of a cup, which releases some mechanism, and your tea pours into a cup. Fascinating stuff.

The scone was crumbly and just slightly sweet. Part of me did not want to go outside: it was such a cold day, but I did not even have a book with me and would have felt awkward just sitting in the cafe twimbling (?) my thumbs.