Lentil Veggie Chili

Lentil & Veggie Chili over brown rice, a delicious, healthy, economical twist on an American favorite.

I think any of our regular readers know my affections for kale at this point. I do love that cruciferous veggie (in fact, this recipe sneaks in two cups of it), but I’ve been keeping quiet about another favorite food of mine. Possibly the the humblest legume out there, the lentil.

I don’t have a funny or inspiring story to tie into this recipe, so I’m just going to indulge in one of my favorite guilty pleasures, talking geeky about health food.

“What’s a lentil?” You ask. Well, I didn’t know either until about two years ago when I started eating a plant-based diet. I wish I had known about them when I was a college student trying to eat healthy on a tight budget. A pound of lentils costs less than $1.00 and will yield 5 cups of cooked lentils. Each cup boasts a whopping 17 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, folate (90% RDV), iron (35% RDV), magnesium, and much more, yet only has 1 gram of fat and 230 calories. All that, and they cook in 30 minutes (versus 4+ hours for most dry beans) with no soaking required.

Like most legumes, lentils aren’t a powerhouse of flavor on their own, but they pick up the flavors of whatever they are cooked in nicely. I use them in soups and spaghetti sauce all the time. This week, I discovered a new use for them. Instead of using canned beans or slow cooking kidney and black beans for my usual veggie chili recipe, I used lentils.

I know it’s warming up and, for some, chili is a winter dish, but I love any quick one-pot meal in the summer that doesn’t require turning on the oven or hovering over the stove for long. You can make a lot at once, and then take the next night off or easily pack up the leftovers for lunch at the office. And if you top it with a hit of diced avocado, some cilantro, and a squeeze of lime , it really brightens up the flavors and brings a bit of summer color to this warm dish.

What’s your favorite under-the-radar ingredient or food that you love to tell your friends about?

Lentil Chili served over brown rice and topped with avocado, cilantro, and lime.

Rachel’s Lentil Veggie Chili

Ingredients

1 onion, diced
3 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. grated ginger
1 T. cumin
1 t. cayenne
1 t. salt
2 serrano chilies, whole
1 sweet potato, chopped
14 oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup (1/2 lb) dry green lentils, sorted for dirt & rocks* & rinsed
6 cups water
2 cups of frozen corn, thawed
2 cups kale, removed from stem
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes (optional for an extra spicy kick)

Other: Brown Rice and/or crackers, avocado, cilantro, & lime

Directions

In a large pot, heat a little bit of olive oil and saute onions and carrots with a pinch of salt on medium heat until soft.  Add garlic and ginger and saute for 2 more minutes. Stir in cumin, cayenne, and salt. Add serrano chilies, sweet potato, tomatoes, lentil, and water. Cover and bring to a boil, lower to a simmer for 30 minutes with the lid tilted, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid. Add corn and kale & optional red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 more minutes. If you want a thicker soup, continue to simmer uncovered until you reach the desired consistency.

Serve over brown rice or with crackers. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.

*Before cooking any dried legumes, pour them onto a solid surface, like a paper towel and sort through them looking for sticks, little rocks, or clumps of dirt. Please don’t skip this step. I find something in probably 50% of my dried beans. You don’t want you or your guests to bite into a rock!

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
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The Title: Lentil Veggie Chili
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© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Bloody Mary Veggie Soup (Vegan)

Becky’s Bloody Mary Soup — Creamy, loaded with vegies and tastes AWESOME!

My husband had surgery on Thursday for a deviated septum and to keep him company while he rested in the living room, breathing like Darth Vader, I went on a nonstop experimental cooking spree.

I suddenly morphed into one of those chefs on America’s Test Kitchens, except that I cook without cleaning as I go, so it looked like unsupervised Kindergarteners were allowed to play with food on my counter tops.

I made this mess in less than 20 minutes. I do this sort of thing with amazing regularity.

At one point I was happily and furiously cooking when I lost my grip on a slippery lemon just before it became airborne and hit me in the head. My mother warned me about hot stoves, boiling water, and sharp knifes when explaining kitchen safety,  but nobody told me to beware of flying citrus.

I am most interested lately in cooking with foods that are known to help lower blood pressure.  My BP was up last week and all medications I’ve tried thus far make me feel like a sloth with a migraine. I’m determined to try to let “food be my medicine” as best I can, and see if I can wrestle those numbers down without pharmaceuticals.

So when Greg said he’d like some tomato soup,  I got inspired and created a super-healthy vegie-tomato soup, chocked full of foods known to  help lower blood pressure.  When I took a sip,  it was truly delicious. Something about it reminded me of Bloody Mary mix, so I added some typical Bloody Mary ingredients (Worcestershire, celery seed, lemon, hot sauce)  to jazz it up even more, then used chopped celery as a garnish and a celery stick as a “stirrer.”  Cute, eh?  And the taste?  Amazing!  It was so good that after Greg and I enjoyed hot soup for lunch,  I sipped a nutritious, warm mug full at mid-afternoon for a snack.  Today I enjoyed it cold, adding tiny diced cucumbers and a little parsley as a gazpacho-like treat.

The basic recipe can be played with dozens of ways, adding bits of veggies that are on hand in your crisper.  Hot or cold, I’m proud to share this soup that is as tasty as it is healthy.

Creamy Bloody Mary Soup

Becky’s Bloody Mary Veggie Soup

Serves 4-6 

Ingredients:

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with basil

2 cloves garlic

½ red onion

1 red bell pepper

1 carrot, rough chopped

1 stalk celery, rough chopped

1 handful fresh spinach (about a cup, loosely packed) (You may also use fresh basil if you have it on hand, instead)

1 ½ c. veggie broth (or chicken broth)

1 ½ c. almond milk (don’t substitute dairy milk as it may curdle)

2 t. organic sugar (or brown sugar)

½ t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 t. Worcestershire sauce (Look for vegan Worcestershire sauce, if you are a vegan purest, as many contain anchovies,)

1 t. celery seed

Juice from ½ fresh lemon

Dash hot sauce (Tabasco or Buffalo Sauce)

2 stalks celery diced small, for garnish (about 1 T. in each bowl)

Celery stalks with leaves attached for garnish, one in each bowl

Directions:

In large blender or food processor put ½ the can tomatoes, garlic, onion, red bell pepper, carrot, celery and spinach and 1 c. veggie broth.  Blend on high until as creamy as you your machine will get it.

Pour mixture into large pan, add rest of can of tomatoes (the crushed tomatoes will add some texture to soup, but if you prefer it smooth, whirl in the blender as well)  and rest of veggie broth, almond milk, sugar, salt and pepper.  Bring to boil, stirring often.  Turn heat down to medium and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire, celery seed, dash hot sauce and juice of ½ fresh lemon.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.   Garnish with a tablespoon of chopped celery and stick of leafy celery and serve.   Delicious with grilled cheese or grilled roasted veggie  sandwich.

Variations: Try other veggies in this basic recipe.  Add chopped cucumber,  chopped green onion and/or diced tomato and serve it cold, like a refreshing gazpacho.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title:  Bloody Mary Veggie Soup

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Spicy Hominy, Kale & Butter Bean Veggie Bowl

Spicy Hominy, Kale and Butter Bean Veggie Bowl

Last autumn my daughter Rachel and her baby, Jackson, then just 4 months old,  met us for a few days of fun and sun in Scottsdale.  What I adore about Arizona in early November is that it is still summertime there.  Apparently nobody informs the state that it is actually Fall.  I love this. The pools are open, the sun is shining and it is the perfect place to decompress before the holidays hit. I highly recommend a pre-holiday vacation if you can swing it. It helps you store up strength for the coming onslaught of perpetual goodwill and cheer, and the work that goes with it.

Jackson has it made in the shade

Before Rachel arrived,  I created what I thought would be a healthy vegan dish for her to enjoy with a few ingredients I’d packed and bought. As it turned out we both enjoyed this impromptu creation aLOT.  One afternoon we packed this yummy, super-healthy veggie concoction into a plastic tub and put it in the beach bag, along with a sack of tortilla chips and paper plates, carrying it all to the swimming pool for lunch. There we devoured it like a dip, scooping  up every last drop with the chips,  as we sipped our chilled fru-fru drinks and watched the baby snooze in the shade of his stroller.
Once I was back  home in Denver I realized, to my shock and surprise, “I’m craving that veggie bowl again.”  Do you know how wonderful it is when  you actually crave something healthy, instead of a Caramel Macchiato with a side of chocolate cupcake?
About once a month, since then, I get the hankering for this concoction and indulge my craving without a shred of guilt,  and a lot of smug self-satisfaction.  There’s also something about the smells  of this veggie mixture simmering on the stove that remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen, only with a South-of-the-Border kick.
The temperature in Colorado was in the 50s and rainy today, and this dish  hit the spot for something comforting, warm, nutritious and delicious.I ate a big bowl full and felt so good about myself that I went to bed at mid-day with a book, as the rain softly drizzled down the window, and indulged in an hour long nap.  After all, being so good to your body deserves a little reward.

Hominy, Kale and Butter Bean Veggie Bowl Simmering in the Skillet

Spicy Hominy, Kale & Butter Bean Veggie Bowl

Ingredients
1 T. olive oil
1 chopped  red onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 16 oz can butter beans (NOT lima beans), with juice from can
1 16 oz  can kidney beans, with juice from can
1/2 large tomato, diced
1 big bunch kale, ribs trimmed away and chopped in about 1 inch pieces
1 can hominy, drained
1 roasted green chili chopped (or a small can green chilis or 1/2 jalepano pepper that has been seeded)
1/2 t. grill or steak seasoning (or 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper)
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. smoked paprika (gives this dish a bacony flavor)
2 t. Tabasco or buffalo sauce to taste
1 t. cumin
Directions:
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are fragrant and tender crisp in your largest deepest skillet.  Add all the other ingredients, one by one, into the simmering pan.  Cover and simmer at medium heat for about 10 minutes or until kale is soft and not overly chewy.
Uncover, and let simmer until the liquid reduces and turns nice and creamy.  Test to see if it needs more salt and pepper.
Serve with crushed corn chips or cornbread.
Variations:  Add a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes to make this into a stew-like soup, rather than a veggie bowl.  (It may need more salt and pepper if you do this.)
Meat lovers can add sliced, sauteed Kielbasa sausage to create a one-bowl-meal.

Veggie Bowl with crushed tortilla chips. Mmmm… mmmm…


Creamy Yellow Pepper Soup

Becky's Creamy Yellow Pepper Soup

Last week I spent the waning hours of sunshine lingering at the condo pool where we spent our vacation in Orlando. As I read my book, luxuriating in the peaceful surroundings, I suddenly heard a child’s terrified scream from the shallow end of the pool. En masse, all the adults stood to see what happened, ready to spring into action.

What we saw was a pink swimsuit, a flurry of dark braids, and what appeared to be a flock of feathers, going at each other. A pair of ducks had apparently chosen this pool for their evening dip, nearly landing on the little girl’s head. Before long, the wide-eyed child went from screams of fright to peals of laughter as the two ducks (I’m assuming Donald and Daffy?) quacked and paddled around their new friend.

Life is like that, full of surprises.

This recipe for yellow pepper soup was one of life’s small surprises for me. My friend of many years, Maxine Bland, served it for lunch on her pretty back porch on a beautiful day in Merritt Island, Florida. I can’t say I was thrilled when she announced we were having Yellow Pepper Soup, as this was years ago, and I’d never tasted or seen a yellow pepper! However, I took one sip, and was transported. The delightful, soothing combination of subtle flavors left me craving more, and Maxine was gracious enough to share her recipe. I modified it just slightly.

(As an aside, I wrote a chapter about Maxine and her mother-in-law, Bernie Bland, who is co-founder of Teen Missions, in my book, Real Magnolias. Two women whose faith and perseverance I deeply admire.)

It is fun to serve this soup and watch the expressions from guests. They always ask for seconds, and then, for the recipe. Even people who don’t like peppers (like my husband) love it. It is smooth and slightly sweet (thanks to the addition of a sweet potato and bit of maple syrup), mingled with the crisp fresh taste of yellow peppers. When you swirl in a tablespoon of rich heavy cream, it adds a buttery richness and makes a beautiful presentation.

Becky's Creamy Yellow Pepper Soup

Becky’s Creamy Yellow Pepper Soup

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

4 Yellow Peppers, medium sized, seeded, rough chopped and sautéed until just tender. (You can also roast them for a bit more flavor, peeling off the charred skin before seeding and chopping.)

1 cooked (baked, boiled or nuked) sweet potato, peeled and rough-chopped
3 c. organic vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth as well, but in this recipe, I really prefer vegie broth)
1/2 onion, rough chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 T. maple syrup (or brown sugar)
1/4 t. fresh grated nutmeg
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
Cream, 6 Tablespoons (1 T for each of 6 bowls) (Non-dairy, unsweetened creamer for vegans)

Directions

Into a blender, toss all the ingredients except salt & pepper, nutmeg and cream. Blend until as smooth as you can get it and cook over medium heat, stirring often, about 10 to 15 minutes until any raw onion and garlic taste is gone, and it is heated through. Add salt and pepper and nutmeg checking for seasonings, adjusting to your liking. Serve in bowls, swirling 1 T. heavy cream into each bowl, gently, using the tip of a spoon just before serving.

Becky's Creamy Yellow Pepper Soup

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Creamy Yellow Pepper Soup
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/05/01/947/


Hello Mother, Hello Daughter

“My mother burns the toast as surely as the sun rises each morning. In fact, I doubt that she’s ever made a round of toast in her life that failed to fill the kitchen with plumes of throat-catching smoke. I am nine now, and have never seen butter without black bits in it.”   Nigel Slator, Toast

Becky (“The Mother”)

Though I’m now a truly good cook, I’m still not always an alert cook, which means that I tend to burn food. The smoke alarm, for many years, was basically our dinner bell.

When my second born Zeke was about five years old I handed him a perfectly golden piece of toast. He took the toast and a dinner knife and walked over to the trash can and started scraping it. “Zeke, Honey,” I said. “You don’t have to scrape your toast today. Mommy didn’t burn it!” To which he looked at me, eyes wide and said, “Oh. I thought we always had to whittle our toast.”

******

We recently visited at Jared and Rachel’s home in Texas, having driven a couple of days from Denver to get there. With my adorable grandbaby flashing us a dimpled smile from his highchair, Rach and I couldn’t wait to roll up our sleeves, get into the kitchen, and cook!

Rachel made an amazing butternut squash soup for our lunch, and while it was simmering, she popped a pan of homemade croutons in the oven, giving me one job: to guard them. Then she disappeared to rock Jackson and put him down for his nap.

Rachel (“The Daughter”)

As I settled into the rocking chair with my sleepy baby, I was going over our lunch menu in our head. The soup was simmering, the side dish was all chopped and ready for consumption, the croutons were toasting.

Oh no. I left the croutons on 450 degrees!

Sure, a high temperature is a quick way to crisp up the chunks of bread lightly coated in olive oil and Italian seasoning, but they need to be watched closely with this quick cook method. The problem: my mom, notorious for burning the bread, was in charge of them. I considered texting her from the nursery to remind her to keep an eye on them, but I’d only asked her to do that one thing…surely she hadn’t already forgotten. I told myself, “Surely, Mom will smell them browning before they get too crisp. I can live with a little char.”

Before I’d finished the argument in my head (“Should I, or should I not, text her?”) I heard a loud “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!!” coming from the kitchen, an all too familiar sound from my childhood. This was not a kitchen timer, not the microwave, not an annoying cell phone ring…this was none other than the smoke alarm.

Still holding Jackson, who had been on his way to dreamland but was alert and wide-eyed now, I rushed to the kitchen. Through a smoky cloud, I see Mom carrying a pan of black char to the back patio.

Like the “Saturday Night Live” skit, “Really!? with Seth and Amy,” all I could say was “Really, Mom? Really?!”

Shoulders scrunched, an innocent smile on her face, mom sheepishly replied, “Soooorrry. I think I may have slightly over-cooked the croutons.”

How can you not forgive a face like that? It’s a little bit childlike, mixed with a lot of ditzy blonde, sprinkled with a dash of Steve Urkel. Did I do thaaaat? I may not need this sweet innocent face as often as my mom has used it,  but it’s a family skill I’m proud to have learned.  It works wonders on my husband…especially after he looks at the credit card bill. Did I buy thaaat?

Becky

The soup was amazing even without the croutons, especially with a garnish of Rachel’s homemade Cowboy Caviar and tortilla chips.

Cowboy Caviar. This tangy black-eyed pea, avocado, corn relish is a staple at potlucks in the South.

Sweet & Spicy Butternut Soup garnished with vegan sour cream, cilantro, and tortilla chips

What occurred in the kitchen that day is a small window into the dynamics of our Mother-Daughter relationship. I have what a brain doctor called “Inattentive ADD.”  Which means I’m not particularly hyper, but I’m ditzy, easily distracted and over-optimistic about things like time, limits, and reality.

Rach has always enjoyed rules and order and minimalist décor with the same enthusiasm that I enjoy flying-by-the-seat-of-my pants, ignoring messes, and filling every space with vintage clutter. My daughter owns a kitchen timer and actually knows where it is and how to use it. This astounds me.

Rachel’s
Sweet & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

This rustic soup is just enough sweet and just enough spice to warm you up on a chilly winter day or to eat around the fire pit on a cool summer night. You could even simmer it over the fire in a dutch oven and serve it up in over-sized mugs if you want a really rustic presentation and experience.

Ingredients

Drizzle of Olive Oil
½ red onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced or minced
½ cup baked sweet potato, mashed
2 cups of baked butternut squash, mashed
4 tbs white wine (divided)
2 cups veggie stock
1-3 cups water
Salt to taste
2 pieces of candied ginger (optional)
Garnish suggestions: croutons, tortilla chips, cilantro, sour cream (regular or non-dairy)

Directions

Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large pot (enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan). Sweat the onion and peppers in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt until soft, add garlic and sweat for two more minutes. Add two tablespoons of the white wine and stir. Add the veggie stock, 1 cup of water, squash, sweet potato, and candied ginger (leave whole). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer on med-low for 20 minutes. Remove ginger (unless you like the flavor a lot—I prefer small traces of it). Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer soup back to your pot and add more water if you would like a thinner consistency. Finish with remaining white wine and salt to taste. Garnish with your choice of toppings.

Notes: I happened to have leftover baked sweet potato and squash from making baby food when I first made this. As a quicker alternative, I’m sure you could chop up peeled sweet potato and squash and just simmer with the soup until they are soft all the way through. Though I think baking or roasting root vegetables brings out their best flavors.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Hello Mother, Hello Daughter
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/hello-mother-hello-daughter/
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved