Golden Lentil Stew

By the ends of winter, I am most definitely in need of some color in my life. That’s why I love this recipe, with all its warm yellow and orange hues. It’s not only healthy, but extremely easy on the eyes and the wallet, for that matter. Turmeric lends a rich color to your food and is considered to have numerous potential health benefits from its anti-inflammatory properties, which may include inhibited growth of certain cancers and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Feel free to include some orzo, or some other small shaped pasta to this stew if you desire, but it’s certainly hearty enough without it. If you are unable to find yellow lentils, which are usually sold in specialty Italian and Middle Eastern markets, you could substitute red or orange lentils, however, the consistency of the stew will change slightly. If you prefer to keep this dish strictly vegan, you could always substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Serve with a dollop of thick yogurt and some crusty bread.

Yield: 6-8 servings

5 Tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, halved, and chopped into small pieces
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained
2 c. chicken stock
6 c. water
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl. finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 Tbl. coarsely chopped
1 c. yellow lentils
2 Tbl. tomato paste
1- 2″ piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/2 c. pitted dates, chopped (optional)
salt, pepper to taste
2 Tbl. parsley, chopped coarsely

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or medium stock pot on medium heat. Add the spices and allow them to simmer in the oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, and ginger. Allow the vegetables to sautée for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, with a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and chopped cilantro with a sprinkle of salt into a thick paste. Add the paste and cinnamon stick to the pot, along with the lentils, and give everything a good stir or two. Add the tomato paste, stock, and water. Stir and cover. Allow the stew to cook for about 20 minutes before adding the canned chickpeas. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 15-20 minutes. If you so choose, add the chopped dates and lemon juice, and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add the finely chopped cilantro and parsley. Serve and enjoy! As always, happy eating!

Vegetarian Chili At Its Best

As a vegetarian, I’ve tried quite a few versions of veggie chili in my days, and this one is my absolute favorite.  It holds such depth and complexity in the flavor, and it makes a super satisfying meal, even to the meat-and-potatoes crowd.  It’s easily adaptable for vegans (just a couple ingredients to omit), and this recipe is great for parties because it makes enough to feed a crowd.  Freeze half for a quick meal another time — it’ll taste even better than the first time around!

Hearty Vegetarian Chili

(recipe based on Mike’s Black Eye Chili from the Marlboro Cookbook: Chili Roundup)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 oil (olive, sunflower, or canola work well)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 large red onions, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried black beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried pinto beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried red kidney beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried garbanzo beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (or a 28-ounce can)
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer — use whatever kind you like to drink, however, I don’t recommend beers that are very light or very dark.  My favorite in this recipe is Yuengling.
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (optional)

Spices:  alter this according to your tastes.

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • pinch of ground red pepper (cayenne)

For Garnish:

  • sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • chopped cilantro
  • avocado slices
  • fresh lime juice
  • chopped scallions

Directions:

Pre-cook any dry beans that you are using.  First soak them overnight in salted water.  Drain and rinse them.  Then cook them in water at a 3:1 ratio of water to beans for about 1 hour.  A sprinkling of salt and a splash of oil can be added to the cooking beans, if you so desire.  The salt will enhance the flavor, and the oil will help prevent the beans from foaming and boiling over while cooking.  Test them to be sure that they are almost done.  It’s okay if they’re not completely cooked because they will finish cooking in the chili.

Prep all your vegetables.  Measure out all your spices into a small bowl and stir to combine.  Heat oil in a large soup or stock pot.  Add garlic, onions, and 2 teaspoons of the mixed spices.  When the onions have softened slightly (after 3-5 minutes), stir in the wine, and allow the alcohol to burn off.  Add the jalapeño pepper, bell peppers, and carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, beer, honey, lentils, one cup of water, beans, corn, and the rest of the spice mixture and bring to a slow simmer.  Stir in the chocolate and cilantro.  Taste and add more seasoning, if needed.  Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Stir the chili occasionally, and add more water if it gets too thick.  Remove from heat, and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to properly mix.

Eat this alone or over rice, and add the garnishes as you see fit.  If desired, add more heat by using 1 chopped habañero pepper, or by adding more cayenne powder.

Tip:  there is no one ingredient that will make or break this recipe.  Only two varieties of bell peppers or beans instead of three?  No biggie.  No beer?  Just add more water and increase the spices.  Conversely, you can add more of any ingredient that you like.  This chili is very adaptable.

Background:  I found this recipe in a book called the Marlboro Cookbook: Chili Roundup.  Somehow I was fortunate enough to get on a mailing list during a chili recipe contest being conducted by Philip Morris around 2000 or 2001, and I was sent this book for free.  The book contains 50 of the top recipes that had been submitted by people from all over, including 7 that are vegetarian (see the photo of the index page below).  If you come across this book online, don’t hesitate to buy it, or if you want more info about it or a copy of one of the other recipes it contains, contact us at twodancingbuckeyes@gmail.com.


Lentil Soup

Lentils, in my opinion, should be a staple in your dietary menu. And because there are so many different types of lentils (red, green, brown, yellow, black, and even, speckled, just to name a few), all with different tastes and cooking qualities, it really isn’t difficult to keep things interesting. Lentils are delicious served alone, combined with rice, or incorporated into soups. They are a wonderful source of protein, essential amino acids, dietary fiber,vitamin B1, and iron.

I began serving my children lentils from a very young age. And I am very pleased that they both enjoy consuming those lovely, small disks of goodness! The following recipe is a tried and true family favorite, and whips together quickly for a weekday dinner. Be sure to make some extra servings for lunch. The flavors blend together overnight, leaving you with an even more intense flavor. Yum!

1 c. lentils (you can mix different types, adding some red and green, etc.)

1/2 onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

2 md. carrots, chopped into small pieces

2 bay leaves

1 Tbl. cumin (add more or less to your liking)

salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

1 c. greens; spinach, kale, etc. (optional)

8-10 c. water

1 c. chicken stock

olive oil for cooking

Sauté the onion, carrot, and garlic in some olive oil on medium. Add the cumin; cook for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and lentils; allow to coat with oil for about 1 minute. Add the bay leaves, chicken stock, and water. (Depending on how much liquid you want left in your soup once it’s done, add more or less water accordingly. You can always add more at the end if there’s not enough.) Bring to a rolling boil, then cover and turn down the heat to low. Allow to cook for about 45 minutes. Towards the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, add your greens if you choose. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with some nice, crusty bread.

Cheddar Cheese and Lentil Loaf

This recipe came from my husband’s Aunt Maria.  Every time I make it, I vary the ingredients, depending on what I have and for experimentation, so I encourage you to change things up, if you want.  The original recipe goes as follows:

1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded

2 c. cooked lentils

1/2 small onion

2 t. thyme

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

1 c. soft bread crumbs, packed

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 T. butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the cheese, lentils, and onions, then add the salt, pepper, and thyme.  Next, add the bread crumbs, egg, and butter and mix thoroughly.  Bake in a greased loaf pan for 45 minutes to an hour (when cooking other things at the same time, it will take a bit longer).

A few notes:

This is great served with winter squash and rice.  I also like to serve it with pasta and marinara sauce (in which case I replace most or all of the cheddar with mozzarella).  Speaking of the cheese, you can use less if you’re looking for something lower in fat.  Just add a couple tablespoons of liquid (e.g. vegetable stock or water) to keep it from getting too dry.  Speaking of dry, if you cook your own lentils for this, be sure that they are fully cooked, or the loaf will turn out dry.  I’ve never used canned, but I’m sure they’re fine, just don’t include the canning juices.  When I make this, I usually make a double batch and freeze half of it to pull out on a busy night.  It’s a great substitute for meat as a main dish.  In fact, my carnivorous husband started craving this recently after I’d been out of the house for a couple weeks while our bathroom was getting remodeled.  So I made it the first week I was back home….I hope you love it as much as we do!