Lentil and Sweet Potato Chili

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I made this divine little heart-warmer sometime last month during the most brutal stretch of -30 degree weather all winter. We stayed inside, curled up under a blanket and devoured this stuff. It’s safe to say it did its job.

I decided to whip this up one afternoon when I found I had 3 bags of dried lentils to use up and a desire to have dinner completed quickly so Mark wouldn’t starve to death when he got home. I decided to make an Indian-inspired chili, rather than the typical Mexican version, and picked up some sweet potatoes to go with the lentils. The presence of garam masala, cumin, and coriander also gives this update of the vegetarian classic a boost.

You can also swap the sweet potatoes for butternut squash and pair it with kale, chick peas or black beans instead of lentils. The world is your oyster.

*1 cup dried brown lentils, cooked and drained

* 1 onion, diced

* 2 cloves garlic

* 2 sweet potatoes, roasted or cooked in the microwave and chopped into cubes

*1 cup vegetable broth

* 1 can diced or plum tomatoes

*1 tsp coriander (crushed seeds or ground)

* tbsp cumin

* 1 tsp garam masala

* 1/2 tbsp chili powder

* salt and pepper to taste

Cook the lentils according to the directions on the bag and drain. Pierce the potatoes with a fork and place them in the microwave and cook them for 10 minutes or until soft and tender. You can also roast them in the oven, which is more socially acceptable, but I had a hungry husband on his way home who skipped his lunch so I had to be quick about it.

Once the potatoes are cooked, scoop them out of their skins and chop them into bite-sized cubes or chunks. Heat the oil in the pot and add the garlic and onions. Once they’re translucent, add the vegetable broth and tomatoes and lower the heat.  Let it simmer for a few minutes and add the lentils and sweet potatoes. Add the cumin, garam masala, coriander and chili powder to taste. Keep adding the spices and stirring until it gets the desired taste: Preferably a sweet, curried spicy flavour.

This would be wonderful served with a side of Naan bread (of course we didn’t have any) or Basmati rice. Voila! Enjoy, and feel this chili warm up your soul!

 

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Mama’s Spaghetti Sauce- From July 21, 2013.

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I felt inclined to share this family classic with the world since I grew up loving it and will continue to make it for any spaghetti, lasagna, or manicotti dish I throw together. It is the best out there and it was created by the master, my mom. Although I don’t have time to cook up a pot of this heavenly nectar of the gods every Sunday like mom does since I work every second weekend (ugh!), you certainly can. Use up half of it the day of , then freeze up the rest of the batch for later. I have something very important to say about the garlic. This is to echo what both my mother and Anthony Bourdain said in Kitchen Confidential.  I will paraphrase both: “Sliced nice and thin like they do in Goodfellas, and as mom says “ not pulverized by that crazy tool.” It’s absolutely crucial!

* 2 28 ounce cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes

* 2 tbsp fennel seeds

* 2 tbsp  Balsamic Vinegar

*4 or more cloves garlic, sliced!

* 1 medium onion , diced

* 1/4 cup fresh basil

* 1-2 tsp Oregano, 1/8 cup chopped if fresh

* 1 tbsp brown sugar. To reduce acidity of the tomatoes

* 1 vegetable bouillon cube

Optional veggies:

* 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper

*1/4 cup finely chopped carrot

* 2-3 cups Parmesan, fresh versus the saw-dust variety

Add Balsamic vinegar and fennel seed to a  pan. Crush fennel while combining, add a few tablespoons of oil, onion, garlic and optional veggies if desired. Cook until translucent. Add tomatoes, herbs and bouillon. Start sauce on medium high heat, then reduced to  low for 2-3 hours. Do  periodic tasting throughout the cooking process and add herbs to taste.

Keep your spoon handy and get your fill of the sauce just by tasting and experimenting with the flavour. Yum!

For those cute little english muffins shown in the picture: Take some whole wheat muffins, lather them with butter and toast them on a frying pan on both sides until brown. You’re good to go, enjoy.

Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole- From Oct. 27, 2013

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Two weekends ago I decided to make a green bean casserole for a family Thanksgiving dinner, since it is one of my favourite Thanksgiving dishes, coming in second place behind my mom’s sweet potato casserole. I wanted to figure out a way to update the boring old canned mushroom soup and french fried onion classic, so I began to think of other veggie and cream-based casseroles I have concocted in the past for inspiration.

I had Ina Garten’s Spinach and gruyere cheese casserole on my mind which called for gruyere and swiss cheese with a basic white sauce and panko bread crumbs on top. I also recalled the cauliflower gratin my mom showed me how to make during a visit which began with a “roux” which you could call it to be fancy, then transformed into a white sauce of milk, canned cheddar cheese soup and shredded cheddar. And with that, I had it: I knew green beans would be perfect in this white sauce environment. I grabbed some leftover orange bell pepper and onions in the fridge and I was ready to go.

Ingredients

* Frozen green beans, about a half of bag.

*2 tbsps, all purpose flour

* 2 tbsps margarine

* 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of your choice

* 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

* 1 orange bell pepper, sliced into strips

* 1 onion, diced

*2 cloves garlic, minced

*chili powder, cumin, oregano, basil, paprika, cayenne pepper, etc, to taste

* salt and pepper

*1 cup Panko bread cups

 

Saute peppers, onions and garlic until translucent and tender.  While those are cooking, Rinse and drain green beans in a strainer in the sink. Set aside veggies aside and begin the white sauce. Melt margarine in a pot on high, once it’s melted add the flour and whisk it consistently to blend it together with the margarine. Lower the heat and pour in the milk, whisking quickly. Gradually add the shredded cheese, salt and pepper and spices to taste., experimenting with the spices and tasting as you go to get it just right. Get rid of that blah, milky taste.

Once sauce is ready, add peppers and onions to combine. Add green beans to a casserole, pour sauce over the beans and sprinkle with the panko crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until hot, bubbly and golden brown :)

This goes great with a quinoa main dish, risotto, or stuffed squash with a big beautiful salad and a sweet potato. Damn, I’m hungry now. Since my husband and I were the only vegetarians at the dinner, we were given VIP access to the dish, with only my father-in-law other than ourselves sampling it.

Enjoy!

Stay tuned for a super serious blog post about the environmental impact of factory farming and meat later this week.

Stuffed Poblano Chiles- From June 17, 2013

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One of my guilty pleasures is going to Mexican restaurants and indulging in those wonderful, fried Chile Rellenos. All hot, creamy and spicy. To die for! Since I can’t afford to do that all the time, I’ve resorted to making the much more healthier and leaner baked version with black beans and brown rice.

1. 2-4 Poblano chiles, sliced lenthwise, and seeds removed

2. 1-1/2 cup brown or wild rice.

3. 1 can tomato paste (for the rice filling)

4. 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

5. 1-2 jalapenos, chopped and diced. Remove seeds for less heat.

6. 1/4 cup frozen corn or diced zucchini if you’re feeling adventurous

7. 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack

8. Vegetable broth (to cook rice in. Measurement depends on how much rice you’re cooking)

9. Crushed coriander. (Optional)

10. Your usual suspects to taste: Salsa, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, coriander, etc.

Once the chiles are prepped and ready, cook the rice in the broth until it reaches a boil. I am guilty of constantly cooking my rice in broth to give it more saltiness and flavour, I can’t help it, it just works.

Add rice and tomato paste in a medium bowl, mix thoroughly. If you want more of a “dirty rice” taste to it, add some crushed coriander. It’s fun, go on, try it. Add the black beans, corn or zucchini. Mix together. Begin seasoning with your spices. Keep tasting and tweaking until it’s just right. Add some salsa.

Now, those puppies are ready to be stuffed. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil if you’re lazy like me and don’t feel like washing another pan after dinner.

This is where I grab my husband, Mark, and put him to work shredding the cheese as I stuff the chiles with the rice/bean filling. Grab your own partner, roommate or buddy and do the same. Mark won’t even let me buy those bags of shredded cheese because it outsources his one and only culinary gig. Have your cheese grater add the cheese on top of the chiles.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve it with whatever frozen, cooked or canned vegetable you have on hand. Like my mom always says, “You gotta have a vegetable with it.” It’s true, you do.

Happy cooking, folks!

Vegetarian Hamburger Helper- From June 14, 2013

 

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*Boil up a pot of shell pasta

* 1 can of Cheddar cheese soup

* 1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted (this is for the roux to make your cheese sauce)

* 1/2 tbsp flour

* 1/4 cup Rice milk or  any fancy ass non-dairy or dairy milk you have on hand. I unfortunately only had rice milk at the time. We’re vegan friendly at our house.

*2 tsps half n’ half.

* 2 frozen veggie burgers, crumbled and zapped in the microwave

* 1 can diced tomatoes.

* chili powder, cumin, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, salsa and garlic powder to taste. Don’t forget the good ol’ S n’ P!

Add any frozen or fresh veggies to make it healthier and leaner.

Finish cooking the pasta. Start making your roux: After the butter is melted in the pot, add the flour. Start whisking it together consistently and quickly. Add the the milk. Don’t stop stirring for nothin’, baby, you can do it! Add the half n’ half. Whisk and stir, baby. Add the can of cheddar soup. Whisk and stir in more half n’ half or milk as needed until it reaches a liquid-y consistency.

Add pasta to the sauce, add the burgers and tomatoes. Mix together. Add veggies of your choice. Start spicin’ things up with the chili powder, cumin and hot sauce to taste. Keep adding flavour and stirring until it reaches a desired cheesy and spicy taste. Serve with a salad or bread. Foodgasm!

Feisty Chickpea Burgers with Maple-Yogurt Sauce and Spicy Potato wedges

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Feisty Chickpea Burgers with Maple-Yogurt Sauce and Spicy Potato Wedges

One afternoon, I found myself with a can of chickpeas, a quarter of a container of Maple flavoured yogurt and…some potatoes!  I instantly became inspired to whip up some chickpea burgers, which I had never made before, throw together a maple-y yogurt sauce for them and chop up those potatoes for some baked fries. Burger night!

so…get all your ingredients ready, let’s get cooking!

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Burgers:

*1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

* 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

* 1 egg

* Juice of 1 lemon

* 1 tbsp crushed coriander

* 1/2 tbsp chili powder

* 1 tsp curry powder

* 2 tsp dijon mustard

* Ketchup ( the sweet Canadian kind) to taste

* 1/2 red onion, diced

Maple-Yogurt sauce

*2 tbsp Maple Syrup

* 3 tbsp Maple Yogurt (Liberte brand)

*lemon juice, 1 squeeze

* 2 tsp dijon mustard

Whisk together.

The first thing I did right before I went on my post-work nap was prep the potatoes. I chopped them into wedges, tossed them into a medium bowl with chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and hot sauce. Then I put them on an oiled baking sheet with salt and pepper, all ready to go in the oven.

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When I awake from my nap, stretch and rub my eyes for a few minutes, I preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put the potato wedges in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

As I get to work on the burgers, the first thing I do is drain the chickpeas. I rinse them and add them to a medium bowl with the egg, lemon juice, chili powder and dijon mustard. I use a potato masher to mash them up a bit before I mix the coriander seeds in a blender until they reach a “crushed” consistency. You can crush them by hand, if you have the tools, I couldn’t find anything to crush them with. Add the coriander and put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Since I still don’t have a food processor, I use my 1970′s style blender that Mark gave me when he moved out of his old house. Blend the ingredients until it looks like they’ve reached a consistency that resembles hummus.

Put the ingredients back in the bowl, add the bread crumbs and diced onion. Now begins the experimenting time! Add the rest of your ingredients: the ketchup, more chili powder, more lemon juice, some cumin. A little bit of this and a little bit of that until it tastes just right.

Take a little break from your experimenting and make your sauce. Check on the potatoes, those should be done by now. Take those out of the oven and let them cool.

Now, it’s time to fry up! Take a handful of the burger mixture and flatten them into patties. Place them all on a dinner plate or two. Heat the oil in a pan. Fry each patty in the pan, one or two at a time, depending on the size of the pan, on each side until they are brown.

Serve with the potato wedges and slices of red onion and tomato. I firmly believe that these burgers should be eaten without a bun, but if you wish, toast up some whole wheat buns and throw the burgers on there. Bon appetit!

Saturday Night Thai-Peanut Curry- From Aug. 31, 2013

I’ve been interested in Thai cuisine lately and thought that I’d actually start experimenting with some quick and easy weeknight dishes. Although a long time lover of Indian curries, these days I’ve been more partial to creamy, coconut milk-based Thai curries loaded with fresh veggies and spiced with chili peppers. I could bathe in that stuff.

I don’t really have a favourite curry.  Green, red, yellow; I love them all equally but I usually tend to go more for the one that tends to make me sweat and clean out my sinuses the most. Oh god, what a feeling. Since I don’t want it so hott that I can’t breathe or chew, I go for something in the middle ground when I order at restaurants.

I went for green curry this time, since I was in the mood for something a bit sweeter. I also decided to mix things up and combine some other Asian influences into this dish, namely Chinese  , by adding a bit of peanut butter and sesame oil to the mix. I also had to substitute chickpeas for the typical tofu because my husband is allergic to soy. Although, he is okay with soy sauce. Here goes!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 1-1 1/2 tbsp Thai Green curry paste
  • 1 cup light Coconut milk
  • 1 tsp fresh Ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • Green beans, a handful. (optional)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup chick peas
  • 1 dollop (a spoonful) of Creamy Peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp Seseame oil
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • 1/4 cup frozen mixed Asian style vegetables (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cilantro

After your chickpeas are cooked and drained and your veggies chopped, heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and veggies and cook until tender. Stir in the curry paste and cook for about 3 minutes.

 

Pour coconut milk into the pan, stirring thoroughly in order to get the curry paste to transform to a liquid consistency. You would also add the chickpeas at this stage, don’t forget them! They’re not quite the “other white meat” like tofu but are still an important veggie protein player in this dish.

Stir in the peanut butter and a splash of the sesame oil. This is the part where the magic happens. So fun and delicious. Taste the spicy and peanut-y love child that these ingredients make at this point! Splash in some soy sauce and stir some more. Once it has reached your desired taste, turn down the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.

Serve with a side of Jasmine rice. Although, we didn’t have any in the house so we just had a salad or some brown rice with it. Enjoy!

My new Cooking blog

Welcome to Ottawa Green Cuisine! I decided to grant independence to my recipes and cooking posts by giving them their very own home. Here I will begin by re-posting all my previously posted recipes on my other main blog for your viewing pleasure. This website will not only focus on my culinary creations but also on basic tips on vegetarian and vegan cooking: Making basic soups, cooking with nutritional yeast, tofu, etc. I will also be maintaining a focus on the nutritional aspect of vegetarian cuisine to educate beginners and to dispel some awful myths.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at laura.kathryn5@gmail.com or in the contact form below 🙂

Happy Green eating!