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It’s a Non-judgmental Lentil

I just very nearly typed, “It’s been a long week,” and then I realized it’s only Monday. Good grief.

Next Sunday is Superbowl Sunday. There will be gatherings of people crowded around televisions to watch the sports ball while simultaneously putting food in their faceholes. Ahhh, tradition.

I always thought it was a little unfair that just after so many of us have had a decent January of eating healthy and getting our bodies out of Holiday Food Coma-geddon, they go and drop a day full of  deep fried, sauced, beerified, cheesy, crunchy snacks on us. I love those snacks. So, so much. *wistful sigh*

But I have an alternative for you. Or, if not an alternative to the whole array of goodies, maybe an alternative for one of the things on your game day plate. It’s kind of a dip… hummus-y sort of thing that is packed with flavor.

It was inspired by this Roasted Garlic and Red Lentil soup posted by Patricia over at Grab a Plate. I thought it sounded awesome as a soup, but maybe equally as delightful as a dip. I experimented a bit, and came up with this little ditty. You can do some of the prep, like cooking the lentils and roasting the garlic, a day ahead and then whir everything up in the blender on the day of the game. Or the day of the sitting at home watching Empire on Hulu while avoiding any mention of football altogether and snacking your face off.

Equipment:
1 medium bowl
1 medium pot
1 baking sheet
measuring cups and spoons
aluminum foil
spoon
knife and cutting board
blender

Ingredients:
1 cup red lentils, soaked for 30 minutes just covered in water
1 cup water and 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 whole garlic bulb
salt and pepper
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground coriander seed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400º.

In a medium pot, combine 1 cup water, 1 cup of stock, and the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover for 30 to 40 minutes until the lentils are tender.

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While the lentils are cooking, divide the garlic bulb in half horizontally, place it on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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Wrap the whole thing up and pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes. When it comes out, it’ll be all roasty and sweet and mellow and smooshy and just really freaking delicious.

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Once the garlic is out of the oven and the lentils are ready, pour the lentils, as much garlic as you like, the red wine vinegar, and the ground coriander into the blender. Pulse 5 or 6 times to combine, then let the blender run while you stream in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Taste for seasoning, adjust, pulse a couple more times, then, viola! You’ve got dip.

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You can drizzle a little more olive oil on top, kind of like the way you serve hummus.

Also, you can play around with the seasonings to your hearts content. I imagine some curry spice would be interesting, or maybe a little smoky cumin. Give it a whirl!

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So, what exactly is a superfood anyway?

I’m about to drop some truth. Yep. Right there on your head. I hope it doesn’t spin your whole world into a tizzy, but it’s happening, so get ready.

There’s no such thing as a superfood, from a nutritional and a medical standpoint. It’s a marketing word created by some ad agency genius. Yes, genius, because it worked. Seriously, go on Pinterest right now and search for “superfood.” There’s a list of foods a mile long.

Do not misunderstand. I’m not saying the foods on those lists aren’t good for you. They’re great for you! They’re full of good stuff like antioxidants and phytonutrients and, well, yeah, lots of really good things. You should eat the foods on those lists because your body will appreciate being well taken care of. But, that’s all a superfood really is– a food that is good for you because it contains the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function and feel good. It’s food that is super for you!

So, when I show you how to throw together this salad, I’m calling it a “Superfood” salad because it tastes super, it’s super satisfying, it’s made of foods that are super for you, and it’s super easy to make. I made it for myself for lunch because I have this horrific flu straight from the depths of hell and I am desperately shoving anything that is good for me into my body until it decides to straighten up and fight back. I have literally been eating an apple a day since Monday. No joke.

This salad with roasted lemon-ginger vinaigrette contains:

Baby kale: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, copper, potassium, iron, protein, calcium
Toasted pumpkin seeds: magnesium, zinc, omega-3, fiber, antioxidants
Fresh blueberries: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, folate, phytonutrients
Shredded Brussels sprouts: low-glycemic properties, protein, fiber, Vitamin C, antioxidants, Vitamin K
Roasted Lemon: Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, pectin
Ginger: anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, may reduce blood pressure, and when consumed ahead of time, may help reduce the damage to your liver caused by taking acetaminophen
Olive oil: reduces risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and high cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, and may have a slight protective effect against depression

Super!

Equipment:
Aluminum foil
Knife and cutting board
Small grater (or the small side of a box grater)
Teaspoon
Large Bowl
Small bowl (for making the vinaigrette)
Whisk

Ingredients:
1 Lemon (I used two because I have plans for the second one later next week)
1 large knob of ginger, to produce about 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of shredded/thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
1 cup of fresh blueberries
1/4 cup of toasted pumpkin seeds
3-4 cups baby kale (or full sized kale, cut into thin strips)

For the vinaigrette:

Heat your oven to 450º.

Poke several small holes in the lemon.

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Place it on a medium sized sheet of aluminum foil with a small pinch of salt and pepper, then wrap the whole thing up into a little package and roast it for about 20 minutes.

While that’s roasting, take the skin off of your knob of ginger with a spoon. Don’t use a knife, because you’ll probably take off more than just skin and the outer layer of ginger is the bit with all the flavor. Instead, use the edge of the spoon to scrape off the thin outer skin of the ginger, then grate the peeled ginger directly into the small bowl you’re going to use to make the dressing.

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When you take the lemon out of the oven, open it over the bowl to catch any juice that might have already come out. Squeeze the rest of the juice into the bowl, being careful to catch any seeds. Mix the ginger into the lemon juice. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the lemon-ginger mixture while whisking briskly. The ingredients should start to emulsify.

I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of this step. I blame all the crap clogging up my noggin area. However,  I found a great video on how to make a basic vinaigrette that shows you the whole whisking thing at :47

http://www.howcast.com/videos/187985-How-to-Make-a-Basic-Vinaigrette

Alternatively, put all three ingredients plus a little salt and pepper into a jar with a lid and shake it like a Polaroid picture until it all comes together.

For the salad:

Thinly slice your Brussels sprouts. Alternatively, you could peel each tiny leaf off one by one… if you have all the time in the world and no place to be for the next little while. But yeah, let’s just go with the shredding thing.

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Roast your pumpkin seeds in a dry pan, just until they start to get some color.

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Toss the Brussels sprouts and the kale together in your large bowl. Top with the toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh blueberries. Drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Ta da!

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Have a super time making/eating this super salad that will make you feel super.

 

Winner Wednesday!

Winner stamp

 

 

This is becoming my favorite day of the week!

Congrats to angelasaver! You’ve won the Crisp™ paring knife.

crisp paring

I’ve got your email address (thanks!) so check your inbox for instructions.

Thanks to all of you who commented. Have a great Wednesday.

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Simple, Soulful Soup

I don’t know about you, but this time of year for me just screams for soup. All kinds. Veggie, chicken, beef… Asian, Irish, or Latin. I’m not picky. I just want a big bowl of something hot and flavorful.

This soup definitely fits the bill, in my opinion. It’s not your standard soup, though. I learned how to make it last quarter in school when we were studying the cuisine of China. It’s called Spinach Velvet Soup, and when made correctly, it really lives up to its name. If you like egg drop soup, and you like spinach, this will be right up your alley. It has ginger, which to me always says “restorative,” since it’s good for all sorts of things, from nausea to inflammation, and you can certainly add more ginger than the recipe calls for if you really want to give it a boost. You could also add diced Asian chilies as a garnish if you wanted to amp up the cold and inflammation fighting power of this soup.

Just a note… this soup comes together really fast, so I recommend having all your prep done and liquids measured out ahead of time so you don’t get stuck on a step (especially the last few) and risk having the soup get too thick.

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Equipment
:

Knife and cutting board
Measuring spoons
Large measuring cup plus a 1/4 cup measuring cup
Small mixing bowl
Grater or ginger board
Small pot for blanching the spinach
at least a 3 quart pot for cooking the soup
Whisk
Cloth kitchen towel for squeezing the water out of the spinach

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh spinach leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 egg whites
2 quarts plus 1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 large knob of fresh ginger from which you will extract 1 tablespoon ginger juice (this can be retrieved by grating the ginger and then squeezing it in a coffee filter to retain the juice)
2 tablespoons diced ham, 1/4″ dice (optional if you want to make this soup vegetarian)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and (white, if you have it) pepper, to taste

Remove the stems from the spinach (or just use baby spinach, because those stems are tender enough to keep), rinse and drain. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the sugar and the spinach, stirring until the water comes back up to a boil. Immediately drain the spinach and run cold water over it to stop the cooking.

Squeeze the spinach through the kitchen towel to get out as much of the liquid as you can. Finely julienne the spinach. Do not use a blender.

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Beat the egg whites with 1 tablespoon water until smooth but not foamy.

Mix the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the stock.

Heat the rest of the stock over high heat until it boils, then reduce the heat to medium. Add half the ham (if you’re using it) and the ginger juice and cook it for about 4 minutes. Turn the heat back up to high and add the spinach, stirring until the stock comes back up to a boil.

Season the soup to taste, then add the cornstarch/stock mixture and stir until the soup is creamy and slightly thickened.

Take the pot off the heat and slowly swirl in your egg whites. DO NOT STIR for about 30 seconds to allow the whites to set, then stir gently to mix them into the soup. Add the sesame and vegetable oil.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To serve, garnish with the remaining ham if you like, or some diced chilies or whatever you think looks pretty on top.

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This soup doesn’t really freeze well, so just make enough to serve right away. The good news is that there’s not a ton of prep, and, as I mentioned,  it comes together really fast so making it isn’t such a pain that doing it to order is a big deal.

Enjoy!

Don’t forget, I’m doing the drawing for the Crisp™ paring knife on Wednesday. Check out this post for details on how to enter.

Kitchen 101: What a tool!

kitchen101

Folks, let’s take a minute to talk about tools. For those of you who haven’t been reading this blog for long, I’ll tell you right up front that I’m not a tool snob. I don’t care if you have the fanciest equipment, or the latest doo-dad, or a drawer full of gadgets. If you don’t have a tart pan and want to use a plain old brownie pan or casserole dish or some thing you fashioned out of aluminum foil and cardboard, I will never tell you that’s wrong. Let’s face it, outfitting a kitchen can be expensive. I don’t have the best equipped kitchen, but over the years I’ve learned how to make what I do have work for me. If there’s one thing I don’t have that I deeply, intensely, desperately wish I did, it would be a stand mixer. Otherwise, I’m doing ok.

However… (You knew there had to be a however.)

There are some tools that are just imperatives for cooks, including our knives. Very little gets done in a kitchen without them. If we have a good, comfortable in our hand, sharp Chef’s knife, we can get a lot done. If I was going to add one more “must have” knife, I think it’d have to be a paring knife.

I’ve used a few of those over the years. Do these look familiar?

oldschoolparing

I feel like everyone I knew growing up had three or four of these simple, little plastic handled paring knives in the drawer. These were the go to tool in our house for peeling potatoes and apples. In fact, I’d never even seen an actual peeler until I was in my late teens. I had no idea there was such a thing because any time something needed to be peeled, we’d just dig around in the drawer for one of these little babies. That sounds totally safe, yeah? Feeling around in a drawer for a knife… Genius!

Last year at the International Food Bloggers Conference, I met the lovely folks from Crisp. I had picked up the 4-in-1 zesting tool I told you about last September in the SWAG room, but the next day I got a closer look at the whole line of Crisp tools and I was intrigued. They sent me home with a paring knife to try out.

I’m going to try very hard not to sound like a commercial, here. It’s super important to me that you know that I will never, ever tell you that you must go out and buy something, or that the brand I use is the only brand in the world that will ever work. But, let me just say… I love this paring knife.


crisp paring

I use it in class, at home, and at work all the time. If I had to choose between this little $12 knife and the semi-fancy looking one that came in the knife kit from school, I’d take this one every single time.

First of all, it stays sharp. That’s important. It might sound counter-intuitive, but you’re actually more likely to hurt yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one. Plus, see that little notch thing in the knife cover? That’s a built in sharpener, so if you need to sharpen your knife, it’s not a big ordeal. Just a few swipes through the sharpener and you’re back in business.

Second, it’s comfortable to use. Maybe at home you don’t really use any single tool long enough to experience hand and wrist fatigue. But, in a kitchen lab for four hours, or at work in a professional kitchen trimming 20 pounds of radishes, the tool in your hand becomes about more than just the job it’s doing. It has to be comfortable to hold or your hands and wrists are going to get tired and sore pretty quickly– another contributor to potential injury.

I’m telling you I like this tool because I use it almost daily so I know it’s good. I’m also telling you about this tool because it’s affordable, as are all the tools in the Crisp line. They also sent me the vegetable peeler and the bird’s beak paring knife to try, and I love them, too. I love them because they feel good, they work well, and they are something I feel comfortable telling my fellow students and you about because buying them will not break the bank. There’s not a single tool on the Crisp website over $20, and most of them are under $15.

And guess what? They were nice enough to send a paring knife along for one of you! I love that they were willing to do that for me, but truth be told I would have been willing to buy one to give away because I like this paring knife that much. And, well, I just love sharing finds like this with all of you. It makes me happy.

For a shot at your very own Crisp paring knife, all you need to do is answer this question in the comments:

What new kitchen skill or technique would you like to learn this year?

 

I’ll draw the winner next Wednesday and announce it in all the usual places. Good luck!

This giveaway is sponsored by Crisp™, but all opinions are my own. One winner will be selected at random and will be announced in another post and all applicable social media accounts on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 no later than 12pm MST. Winner will have 72 hours to respond to notification of win or the prize is forfeit and a new winner will be chosen. Prize will be sent via US Postal Service so you’ll need to provide your mailing address if you win. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. Open to US residents only including APO & FPO addresses, must be 18 years or older to enter.