Lentil and Mushroom Slow Cooker Soup

This recipe is both in sympathy for my Boston and NYC friends trapped in a blizzard (or not-so-blizzard?) at the moment, and the anticipation of life with less time to cook in my not so distant future.

In the past, I’ve never much been into slow cookers. Outside of the prospect of coming home to cooked dried beans (with no soaking!) to be utilized for various concoctions, I haven’t understood the appeal. Pinterest is always full of gloppy slow cooker recipes–most featuring meat and cheese, things from cans, and other processed ingredients. Other slow cooker recipes that sound more appealing to me often involve lots of cooking various things on the stove, then transferring them to the cooker, which always seemed to me to be redundant–why not just keep it all in the same pot and put it in a low oven or on a low simmer?

However, as I approach my third trimester of pregnancy, I often think about how life will change once the baby is here, and how appealing it would be to throw some stuff in a slow cooker, go out for the morning, and return home to a complete meal. Thus begin my forays into slow cookery.

Most of the appealing recipes that I’ve come across are soups that typically involve beans, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with that! Especially since I recently found out in my birthing class that the WHO recommends 70 grams (!!) of protein daily, and since I love beans.

Here’s a hearty lentil and mushroom number that I threw together after looking at a few recipes online. While it doesn’t look like much, it’s yummy, and if you add some more stock + carrots, celery, and/or other veggies, it would probably be even tastier. I ate my words above, and separately sautéed the onion and garlic on the stovetop before putting them in the slow cooker, but you could also give them a quick zap in the microwave, or just toss it all in the slow cooker raw if you find that easier.

Do you all have any vegetarian slow cooker favs? I’d love to know about them!

Stay warm…..

Lentil Mushroom Soup

Lentil and Mushroom Slow Cooker Soup

inspired by Crockpot Lentil Soup, by Everyday Maven

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Tb. olive oil
  • 2 Tb. Turkish red pepper paste (or substitute tomato paste)
  • 2 tsp. fresh chopped thyme (or sub 1 tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 C. green or brown lentils
  • 3/4 C. winter wheat berries
  • 6-8 baby bella, or other mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 C. white wine (optional)
  • 8 C. vegetable stock
  • 1/8 C. grated Romano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. red wine or sherry vinegar

Sauté the onion in the olive oil in a skillet over medium until translucent. Add the garlic and stir till fragrant, about a minute. Add the red pepper paste or tomato paste and herbs and sauté all for another 3-5 minutes.

Place the sautéed onion mixture, dried lentils, dry wheat berries, sliced mushrooms, white wine, cheese, salt, pepper, and veggie stock into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, depending on the strength of your slow cooker.

When done, stir in the vinegar and then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Winter Wheat Bowl with Tahini Dressing and Yogurt

We had a really nice holiday in Kentucky with my family, and then in Texas for New Year’s with Garriy’s parents, but we were both relieved to make our way back to home in Knoxville. Too much travel, too much rich food…you know the drill.

The baby is growing by leaps and bounds (he’s around a foot long now!), and I finally felt him kick around in my belly on Xmas eve, which felt like the best Christmas gift ever. Even though it’s frigid in Tennessee right now, our May due date feels like it’s closing in on us already as I near the end of my second trimester. We’re in the process of turning our dining room into a guest room, our guest room into a nursery, and our sunroom into a permanent dining room. Garriy has been working hard to build us a new 10-person dining room table (!!), which is coming along beautifully.

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I’ve been trying to make lunches and dinners easier and more appealing by roasting a bunch of colorful veggies at the beginning of the week. Unfortunately, we tend to gobble them all up before I can get many meals out of them, but I’ve loved having a big bowl of grains with lots of different vegetables on top. This is something I whipped up earlier this week with one of my biggest pregnancy cravings–beets (and plain yogurt? I don’t know why, but I’m thankful for my healthy cravings). It may seem like a lot of separate roasting, but you can do them all on the same baking tray, or do them at the beginning of the week in larger quantities to ease the multiple steps. None of it is supervised cooking though, so I found I could toss them in the oven with a timer while doing yoga and cleaning the house.

Here’s wishing my besties a happy, healthy 2015! Miss you all.

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Winter Wheat Bowl with Tahini Dressing and Yogurt

  • 1 1/2 C. Soft or Hard Winter Wheat Berries (or another whole grain of choice–quinoa, bulgar, etc.)
  • 2-3 beets, beet greens set aside
  • 1 can rinsed and drained chickpeas (or homecooked)
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • ~4  to 5 Tb. olive oil, divided
  • 4 Tb. Greek Yogurt
  • 4 Tb. feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot Sauce, to serve (optional)

Tahini Dressing:

  • 2 Tb. or more of tahini
  • juice of one lemon (or a few Tb. of cider vinegar)
  • warm water
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil and add the winter wheat–simmer for around 45 minutes, checking at 30 minutes for doneness (should be chewy, but not at all hard). If you’re using another grain, cook it accordingly.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350. Wrap whole beets in foil and place on a baking sheet. Chop sweet potato into small cubes and season with salt, pepper, and 1-1 1/2 Tb. olive oil. Place on baking sheet. Toss chickpeas with 1-1 1/2 Tb. olive oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder, and place on final third of baking sheet. Test the chickpeas and sweet potatoes for doneness at 15 minutes. Remove them when tender and set aside. Bake the beets for 30-60 minutes, depending on the size, till tender.

Let the beets cool on the side. Chop the beet greens. Heat 1 Tb. olive oil in pan and saute beet greens till tender, seasoning with salt in pepper. While greens are cooking, make tahini dressing. Add the tahini to a bowl or mug and stir in the lemon juice or vinegar. Beat the mixture until it tightens and turns white. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add a dollop of olive oil, and then slowly stir in a bit of water until the dressing is thinned to salad dressing consistency. Taste for salt, seasoning to taste.

Assemble bowls by placing cooked grain on bottom, and then layering cooked beets, beet greens, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes on top. Drizzle each serving with tahini dressing and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some feta cheese. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

Coconut Almond Granola

It hasn’t seemed much like winter here, with the balmy temperatures of the last week, but nevertheless, a spate of holiday parties, wrapping presents, and baking have put us in a festive mood. And now that I finally have a noticeable baby bump, that has made the last few weeks pretty exciting too–this pregnancy thing seems all the more real (now just to feel him move! Any day now…).

Amidst all of the rich food, I’ve tried to stay tried and true to my everyday breakfast of yogurt and granola. Granola is an easy enough thing to put together, it hardly seems to need a recipe, but nevertheless, I tried a new version today that seemed worth posting.

I added cardamom, one of my favorite spices–it adds such a unique flavor to everything–and I left out the dried fruit since the natural sugar seemed overkill since I sometimes add granola to sweetened, rather than plain, Greek yogurt. Hope you enjoy! What have you all been cooking lately?

Coconut ALmond Granola

Coconut Almond Granola

Adapted from Honey Almond Granola, Cookie & Kate

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 
  • 1½ cups almonds, chopped (or other nuts*)
  • 1/8 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup flaked coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir thoroughly to combine.
Stir in the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Turn the granola out into a roasting pan and use a large spoon to spread it in an even layer. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway. The granola should be turning lightly golden. The granola will crisp up as it cools.
Let the granola cool and store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks, or keep it in the freezer for longer shelf life.

Pasta with Pea Pesto and a Fried Egg

This post could also be called post-Thanksgiving what in the world do you make with only a half bag of frozen peas and literally no other produce. We got back from a visit with my family for the holiday. It was perfect: lots of fires, eating, sleeping, farm-going, and just relaxing. We were so grateful to have a break from what has been a very busy fall.

However, I haven’t gone grocery shopping since well before the holiday and our pickings were limited to the freezer and pantry for tonight’s meal (I also managed to salvage some herbs that have lasted outside through the last few frosts). This is kind of like a reverse carbonara, with the egg sitting on top of the pasta instead of in a creamy sauce, and the peas made into a creamy sauce instead of on top of the pasta. It was a great hearty winter meal with the farm egg on top, but it’s also great (and slightly lighter) without–so, take your pick either way.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Miss you lots.

peas and egg

Pasta with Pea Pesto and a Fried Egg

  • 1 lb. spaghetti, or other pasta
  • 1 1/4 C. frozen peas, defrosted
  • large handful of herbs (mine were parsley, sage, and chives)
  • 1/8-1/4 C. olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 C. almonds
  • 1/4 C. crumbled feta (or more, to taste)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • eggs (one for each person)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the meantime, make the pesto. Combine the peas, almonds, and herbs in the food processor and pulse till coarsely chopped. Add the juice and zest of the lemon and run motor. With motor running, add enough olive oil to make a smooth paste. Taste for salt and pepper.

Add the pasta to the boiling water. When almost done, fry an egg–one for each person–sunny side up. Reserve 1/2 C. of pasta water and then drain the pasta. Toss the pasta with the pesto and enough water to make a creamy sauce. Toss pasta with the feta and then plate pasta. Serve each pasta portion with a fried egg on top.

Salmon with Arugula, Beets, & Horseradish Sauce

SalmonI’m sorry I haven’t posted until now despite grand promises! To be honest, and as my besties know, I’ve been very nauseated from pregnancy, and so I haven’t felt much like cooking. The good news is that the end of my first trimester I seem to be slightly emerging from the yucks, and had a stroke of inspiration this week via a free week of Blue Apron.

My sister loves the cooking service and sent me a free week’s trial. While I don’t like the waste of sending so many little packets of ingredients through the mail, and it’s too expensive for us to continue, I will admit that the recipes that we received for the week are delicious and a few of them I’ll definitely mimic again.

This salmon was delicious–I’ve listed a slightly modified version of the original recipe below, omitting the shallots (raw onion/garlic family = pregnancy heartburn) and the higher fat dairy (sour cream). I actually can’t wait to make this again. Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps–I threw it together in about 30 minutes.

Miss you ladies, and I’ve missed cooking, so glad to be back on here!

Salmon with Arugula, Beets, & Horseradish Sauce

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 3/4 C. farro
  • 5 brussels sprouts
  • 3 C. arugula
  • 2-3 baby beets
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 2 tsp. prepared horseradish (or 1 1-inch piece fresh horseradish, grated fine)
  • 1 Tb. Sherry vinegar
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 C. greek yogurt

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beets. Cook for 25 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork and set aside. When beets are cool enough to handle, use a paper towel to peel them and slice into rounds.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, salt it, and add the farro–cook for 16-18 minutes. While the farro is cooking, slice the stem ends off the brussels sprouts, cut each in half lengthwise and then cut across into a fine julienne. Mince the chives and add to the brussels sprouts. Add the sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper to the brussels sprouts, taste for seasoning and set aside.

To make the horseradish sauce, whisk together the horseradish, yogurt, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the farro is tender, drain, drizzle with olive oil, and toss with arugula, salt, and pepper.

Season the salmon filets with salt and pepper and sear in a non-stick pan or cast iron skillet, cooking 2-3 minutes per side or until they reach your desired doneness.

Place half the farro salad on each plate, and top each portion with a salmon filet and half of the brussels sprouts salad. Garnish with a dollop of the horseradish sauce and serve.

Hearty Veggie Stew – lemony chickpea, spinach in coconut milk

What a long hiatus from our food blog! Last month we had an amazing reunion at Sara’s wonderful wedding. The happiness and love surrounded all of us and it felt like we all still lived a block from each other, even if it was just for 48 hours. Though, not surprising, the food and drinks were much better than our college days! Even the late night party pack (buffalo chicken pizza…) far surpassed EBAs! Also, breakfast food truck…salivating… I was lucky to have another friend’s wedding the weekend after so stayed in the US in between. Timing was on my side since Naomi was able to get away for a few days; not an easy feat when you’re a kick-ass resident. We hiked, cooked, sauna-ed and experienced the mountains just starting to burst with color. Did I mention that it was an amazing reunion? Needless to say, I felt a bit forlorn coming back to Switzerland, but luckily, fall is settling in on this side of the pond too – my favorite season.

Why do I love fall? The temperature is ideal for running; you don’t have to gear up in all the layers or calculate your run so you have optimal shade. The smell in the air is a mixture of the leaves turning and the dew in the morning. My favorite holiday of all time – Thanksgiving – is around the corner. And in Switzerland I get to celebrate it TWICE – Canadian Thanksgiving (last night!) and American Thanksgiving. Finally, hearty soups and stews are back! I love anything that has broth so with that I wanted to share this lemony spinach, chickpea, coconut milk stew, which we ate with rice, but you could do with any grain. Most importantly, this is a dish where even my carnivore husband said there was nothing missing and that it was amazing despite it being vegetarian!

Recipe adapted from www.thekitchn.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoon of olive oil
    2 onions
    3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
    2 tablespoon grated ginger
    3/4 cup of sun dried tomato
    1 large lemon, zested and juiced 2 cups of chickpea
    1 pound baby spinach
    14-ounce can coconut milk
  • Salt/peper to taste

Heat oil then toss in onions, garlic and ginger. Add lemon zest and chickpea to brown. Once browned add in the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add spinach and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste!

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Breakfast at Sara’s Wedding Tent

Cauliflower Spread

Wow, over a month since any of us have posted! That must mean we’re all very busy!

We’ve been entertaining a bunch, working on finishing a semester and two upcoming exhibits, and working a ton on the house–painting, gardening, cleaning up the winter debris. Unfortunately, that has also meant ignoring blogging.

I cooked this cauliflower spread the other night before a dinner party with friends on our back patio (pictured above a few weeks ago before everything started blooming…). It continues my obsession with vegetable-based spreads for crackers and bread. It would be good with Indian flavors or Middle Eastern flavors too–next time I try it, I think I’ll add some curry powder or Dukkah, but this simple version was great too with herbs from our herb garden. Hope Spring is treating everyone well!

Cauliflower

 

Cauliflower Spread with Crostini

adapted from Cauliflower Spread, Better Homes and Gardens

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 oz. goat cheese (or substitute feta)
  • 1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh chive, minced
  • 1/4 C. or more olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 baguette, toasted, or crackers

Steam the cauliflower until very tender in the microwave or on the stovetop. Add cauliflower and all other ingredients except for olive oil to food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil till desired consistency is achieved, and process till very smooth. Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with extra olive oil and snipped oregano. Serve with toasted baguette or with Wasa or water crackers.

 

¡¡Picante!!

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Hi all! I’ve been doing a lot of finger foods lately: sauces to dip things in, sambusek, mezze, etc. Something about this time of year maybe? Or just that I’ve been working lots of nights which tends to leave me a little queasy and not that hungry for more than little snacks at a time – unless its something REALLY delicious. I came across this recipe on Tasting Table, an e-mail I get regularly that has among other things, recipes from sous-chefs at renowned restaurants across the country. This one really caught my eye – its not something I’d ever really thought of making, but it seemed so simple and oh, that creamy orange color just looked so delicious! I made a few small adjustments, but for the most part I must thank Jose Enrique from San Juan, Puerto Rico for this one. You can of course adjust the heat by adding or subtracting Habaneros. I did it just like is written below and it was spicy after a few seconds, then faded out slowly without ever making you break a sweat. (So next time I think I’ll add more hot peppers.) Goes well with eggs, beans, sandwiches, tacos of all kinds, and just for dipping toasted bits of baguette. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes ~2-3 cups)

  • 1/2 large yellow onion cut into chunks
  • 1 medium-sized vine tomato, cored and diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper diced
  • 1/2 Anaheim pepper (or substitute another sweet pepper) diced
  • 3 Habaneros – cut off the stem but otherwise leave whole (with seeds)
  • 4 Jalapenos – cut off the stem but otherwise leave whole as well
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • ~2.5 cups EVOO – enough to just cover the ingredients
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

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  • Throw everything into a heavy-bottomed Le Creuset-type pot on medium heat
  • Simmer uncovered for 4 hours – there should be small bubbles coming up occasionally, but it should not get to a rolling boil. Everything should begin to brown on the surface as you get towards 4 hours.
  • Let cool.
  • Get the veggies out with a strainer, reserving the oil in the pot. Put the veggies in a food processor. If you have a Vitamix, that would probably yield ideal smoothness. If you have an immersion blender that is not totally dull and useless at this point as mine is, that would work too!

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  • Blend the veggies until smooth. Depending on what consistency you want, add more oil. I ended up adding back probably a half cup or so of what had been strained out. You can also take out a Habanero or two before you puree, see how hot the sauce is, and add the reserved ones back to adjust.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Keep the cooking oil! It has lots of flavor and is nice and spicy.

This will be a fun one to play around with in the future with proportions and other ingredients! If anyone makes it, post your adjustments and let us know how it turns out!

Flourless Chocolate-Almond Cake

Thanks Cat for keeping the blog alive and as I end my month of fun-employment, I wanted to at least have one-post!  Having just returned from an amazing yoga/cooking retreat in Southern Spain (highly recommend it for anyone interested!), I am eager to try out all of the gourmet vegetarian recipes that I learned.  I especially loved learning about quick, easy techniques that elevate your plates into something from a fine-dining establishment.   For example, using small metal round disks for plating/making parmesan crackers to adorn your dishes.  I also discovered the beauty of an ice cream machine.  We made delicious home-made vanilla ice cream, but also more exciting savory mustard ice-cream for an appetizer paired with red cabbage to a light rose-water sorbet.  I am inspired.  I only wish that the three of you could have been with me!   It was so fun to cook with others, but definitely made me miss you all.

As my last hurrah before plunging back into work, I am going away on a girls weekend.  It’s almost become a tradition for me to bake something whenever I leave since a) I like leaving a little love behind; b) I don’t particularly like baking; and c) I don’t like sweets/cakes so it’s an added treat for K when I am away.  Consequently, this week before my trip, I decided to try to re-create one of the dishes we had at the retreat, which was a flourless, almond (or hazelnut), chocolate cake.

Ingredients 

– 200g dark bitter chocolate

– 1 tbsp of strong coffee

– 1 tbsp of rum, brandy, cognac

– 1/3 cup of sugar

– 150 g butter

– 3/4 cup of almond meal

– 5 eggs separated (make sure you don’t get any yolk in the whites)

Directions

– Melt chocolate, coffee, alcohol, sugar and butter on low heat in a sauce pan until everything is mixed; remove from heat, transfer to large mixing bowl and make sure that it is cooled enough for eggs not to cook, but not so cooled it starts to harden.

– Add in almond meal

– Beat egg yolks then add to the chocolate mixture

– Beat egg whites until it becomes stiff with an electric mixer

– Fold into the chocolate mixture

– Put it into a cake pan at 180 degrees Celsius for 40-50 min or until the cake stops wobbling

– Consume with chocolate gancahe, frosting, ice cream or plain since it’s quite rich

YUM.

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Cake with home-made ice cream and sugar adornment from the retreat

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Photo of the retreat courtesy of a fellow yogi/cook from the week

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Almond blossoms in full bloom!

Swiss Chard and Chickpeas with Beet-Yogurt Salad

Snow

Wow, it has been too long since our last post!

Last night, as we settled in at home with a snow storm blanketing our area, I wanted to make something healthy but hearty. I had a few roasted beets in the fridge that I’d thrown in the oven the night before and so I figured I’d make something with them. Inspired by some recent Russian cooking, I wanted to make a beet salad and put it on top of grains, but I also wanted some protein, so I improvised this chard and chickpea stew to go with it. I only had a bit of Israeli couscous and a bit of bulgar, so I mixed them together in this recipe to stretch them. You don’t need to go to extra trouble to make both unless you want to, but the bulgar adds a nice texture to the softer Israeli couscous.

This was pretty great–I wish I’d had some fresh herbs to stir in it, but hey, it’s February, and it was also pretty good without.

Miss you ladies–enjoy the snow! I think at this point it has hit the West coast, the South, and now is headed up to New England, so we’ll all get some snow (except Aya)!

Beet Yogurt Salad

Swiss Chard and Chickpeas with Beet-Yogurt Salad

  • 1 C. coarse bulgar wheat
  • 1 C. Israeli couscous
  • water
  • 2 Tb. olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • 1 can rinsed and drained chickpeas
  • 2 beets, roasted or microwaved till tender
  • 1/2 C. Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 lemons + 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Add 1 Tb. olive oil to saucepan and saute raw Israeli couscous till light brown. Add 1 1/2 C. water and a pinch of salt and cook over low for about 15 minutes, or till water is absorbed. In the meantime, cover the bulgar slightly with water and a pinch of salt in a covered microwaveable dish and microwave for 5 minutes. Let both grains sit and steam in their pans when done.

Saute the onion in remaining 1 Tb. olive oil till soft and brown. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the swiss chard and caraway seed. When the chard is just beginning to wilt, add the chickpeas and salt and pepper to taste and saute over medium heat.

While the greens are cooking, peel and dice the beats. Add the yogurt, 1 tsp. lemon zest, and juice of 1 lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place.

Finish the greens off with juice of 1/2 a lemon and taste for seasoning. Toss the bulgar and couscous together lightly with a fork. Serve the greens and chickpeas atop the grains and top with a bit of beet salad.