Lentil Meatballs, and Baby Balls too!

hat This is Asher’s “surprise” face.

finger OK so I know I share a lot of stories about Asher, but I also have this 6-month old sweet, gentle, observant, incredibly smiley little guy named Everett who is currently in the throes of trying new foods every day. It’s really amazing seeing a little person try new flavors, and especially gratifying when they devour the whole bowl with a wide open mouth. This time around we are opting to buy a lot of store-bought purees, but I vividly remember making all of Asher’s baby food and later pureeing a serving size of whatever casserole we were eating for dinner in the food processor, adding a 1/4 cup bread crumbs, and rolling it into a million “poop” balls as my husband lovingly called them for him to try. Then ta-dah! your freezer is full of balls that you don’t use within the recommended three months.

Speaking of food balls, a few weeks ago I tried a remarkable recipe for lentil meatballs and people have been asking for the recipe. These meatballs hold together beautifully and a have rich, herbal taste. Yes, they also freeze well. The recipe recommends serving them with a lemon pesto rather than the traditional marinara.

LENTIL MEATBALLS

1 cup lentils, rinsed
2 cups water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup ricotta
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Few pinches of fresh thyme leaves or dried thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup bread crumbs

Put the lentils in a pot with the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the lentils and set aside to cool. Transfer the lentils to a food processor and pulse until it forms a chunky puree. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the eggs, olive oil, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic, fennel seeds, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine well. Stir in the bread crumbs and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the lentil mixture into 1-inch balls and arrange them on the baking sheet. Bake until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to cool slightly.

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Crunchy Curry Chickpeas, and the Toddler Hunger Games

curry soup
So Asher had a “toddler moment” this week with his eating habits. For 5 days he barely ate and then yesterday he ate about 14 days worth of food all before lunchtime. With his various neon colored plastic bowls scattered around the kitchen floor, he enjoyed samples of raisin bran, eggs, orange flavored cranberries, goldfish crackers, kale, fresh dill, vanilla yogurt, and crunchy bites of curried roasted chickpeas. We had so much fun in the kitchen while my husband painstakingly prepared today’s Crunchy Curry Chickpeas recipe with a pinched forehead from a wonderful cookbook my friend Stephanie gave me called Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi , and I joyfully threw crap in a pot and made something. Like our marriage, these two dishes worked in perfect harmony!

CURRY ZUCCHINI SOUP

6 large zucchinis sliced into moon shapes
1 diced medium onion
5 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons curry powder

In large sauce pot, fry diced onions on medium heat for 3 minutes in cooking spray or olive oil. Then add sliced zucchinis, stirring for 5-7 minutes. Add curry powder and vegetable broth, turn up to a boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and use hand blender to puree into creamy soup. Season with salt. Top of with crunchy curry chickpeas.

CRUNCHY CURRY CHICKPEAS

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay the drained chickpeas on a dish towel and gently rub each bean to remove any remaining skins, making sure that they are totally dry. In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, curry powder, thyme, and ginger. Add the chickpeas to the bowl and toss to coat. Spread the chickpeas on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake the chickpeas, tossing them occasionally, until they are light brown and crisped, 40 – 45 minutes. As soon as you remove them from the oven, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Let them cool completely, then serve. They are best eaten the day they are made.

Vegan Spicy Red Lentil Soup, Lessons from a Hand Blender

soup The hand blender is hands down my favorite kitchen appliance. Well, that and the automatic coffee maker that fills my house with the tangy roasted smell of Starbucks every morning. This is a critical moment in my day as I practically fall down the stairs carrying an infant in one arm and a groggy toddler in the other who demands Deadmaus5 before 7:00am. I haven’t put on a bra, the nanny is on her way, I have 30 minutes to pack work lunches, get dressed, and apply make-up.

But that’s another story.

Yesterday I found a simply amazing recipe for vegan spicy red lentil soup that took an hour to make but my instinct tells me should have only taken me 30 minutes. I mean I literally had 2 mixing bowls, a soup pot, two pans, a very messy food processor and a dishwasher going. Insanity. Who has that kind of time and patience? I think we can dumb this down to a one-pot plus one-pan wonder. It cost me less than $10 for the ingredients and only slightly more for the Jerusalem salad I served on the side.

2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over
8 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
5 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
¾ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce (I used Goya salsa picante hot sauce)
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ cup cornstarch + ¼ cup hot water
½ green pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced

In a small dish, combine cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, chili powder and Tabasco sauce. Set aside. Sort lentils (pick out any stones / damaged lentils) and rinse. In a pan, add olive oil and saute garlic for 2 minutes, then add celery and onion and cook additional 3 minutes, stirring constantly. In a soup pot, combine lentils and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as boiling, turn to medium low heat. Add onion/celery mixture to the lentil and cook for 20 minutes until lentils are tender. Add small bowl of spices to the soup and cook for 30 seconds. Now, toss in canned tomatoes. Add vegetable stock and remaining 4 cups of water. Finally, mix cornstarch with hot water until well combined and add to soup. Stir constantly over high heat for 30 to 45 seconds to thicken. Finally, take hand blender and puree the soup until smooth and creamy. Turn off heat; add diced green pepper.

Here is the original Wegman’s recipe: http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10052&partNumber=RECIPE_5575

Food Art!

food art Want to spend a long time doing something that nobody cares about? Try making food art for your 2-year old! Your incredbile artistic abilites will be totally lost on them. However if, like me, you have tried this and if, like me, you will continue to test the limits of your patience and creativity all in the hopes of getting one iota of a smile out of your little one, I applaud you. Today’s photo is a shout-out to Alisha for her breakfast brilliance. Robby claims he made the chocolate toast boat, so props to him as well.

Caprese Pasta, for Stress Eating

capreseLately my husband and I have had just one too many sleepless nights. Our new neighbor – let’s just say his name rhymes with “Keff”, but starts with the letter directly before K – watches some Steven Seagal crap movie through his $6,000 surround sound system at precisely the moment my infant falls asleep. Moments later we realize the toddler is still up in bed deliriously searching for juice “WITH ICE CUBES” and then just a few hazy hours later the infant is joyfully up for the day.

So after a few too many of these disgruntled mornings counting on two hands the number of date nights my husband and I have actually shared in the last three years, I am reminded of a very lovely date night we shared on New Years Eve last year cooking one of my favorite comfort foods. It’s best served at room temperature, and is even better the next day!

CAPRESE PASTA
1 box penne pasta
3 cups diced vine ripe tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh basil
2 cloves diced fresh garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 package of buffalo mozzarella
3 zucchinis sliced into 1/4” rounds
1 cup walnuts

In a large bowl toss the diced tomatoes, chopped garlic, chopped basil, walnuts, and olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Cook the pasta 10 minutes (pasta is always better al dente!) While the pasta cooks, pan fry the zucchini rounds in olive oil or cooking spray about 3 minutes per side. When the pasta is done, run it under cold water in the colander to cool. Then toss into the tomato mixture. Top the pasta with the fried zucchini and then roughly tear the buffalo mozzarella on top.

Roasted Tofu Special Treat

tofuMy spirited two a half year old Asher has a Vaudevillian sense of humor – he wears a top hat naked after bath time, turns anything into a drumstick, and falls over giggling when he hears the word “scotch tape.” Asher also constantly asks us for “special treats”.  But then the other day, just like that, he literally BEGGED me for raw tofu.

We’ve been eating roasted tofu for years, but when he saw me pull the extra firm tofu container out of the refrigerator he dropped his Stars Wars action figures and begged for some on a plate. Reverse physhology only made the experience more enjoyable. “No, Asher. You can’t have tofu.” “But I NEEEEEEEED tofu!” “Ok, you can have tofu. Just this once.” While I too enjoy the texture and flavor of raw tofu, most people in their right minds don’t. So here is a cheap, healthy, easy way to add flavor and protein to any dish. Tofu is usually on sale for $1.50 at our local grocery store so you can stick to your weekly food budget.

2 packages of extra firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce (if you like a bit of a kick)
Juice from 1 lime

Remove tofu from packaging and gently squeeze the brick with your hands over the sink to immediatly get rid of some of its juices. Slice the tofu into 1/2 ” cubes. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum and spray with nonstick spray. Spread out the tofu on the baking sheet. Turn on the broiler and place the oven rack in the middle. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients and then pour over tofu. Use your hands to ensure everything is mixed. Place baking sheet in oven and leave for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. The extra water for the tofu will start to steam off during the process. For a crunchier tofu, leave in for an additional 5 minutes but keep your eye on it because it will burn!

Green Shephard’s Pie

strawsToday’s post is not about smoothies but here is a funny picture of Asher drinking with 4 straws.

Today’s recipe is actually for a vegan green shepard’s pie that I invented a few years ago and dammit I think I deserve an award for it. If I were to audition for a vegetarian Masterchef, it would be with this recipe. “Spectular, local, fresh, delicious!” The kale makes this dish creamy and light enough for summer but also a hearty dish for the winter.

I  love kale. It can be eaten raw, sauteed, pureed, or baked into chips. Nutritionally, it is amazing for you. It is dense with iron, has enough vitamin A, C and K for an entire day, and has more calcium than a glass of milk. I hope this becomes a favorite go-to recipe for you too.

GREEN SHEPHARD’S PIE

1 bunch of green kale
1 can of artichoke hearts in water
1 bag of frozen soybeans
1 medium onion
2 large potatoes
1/2 stick of butter (optional)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes). Mash then add salt and butter to taste. Dice the onions and saute in with olive oil or cooking spray for 3 minutes. Roughly tear the kale from the stems into small pieces and add to pan and sauté until wilted. Drain the artichoke hearts and slice hearts into quarters. Then add entire bag of frozen soy beans and artichokes to pan and sauté for another 5-10 minutes until greens are tender. Pour the kale mixture into a casserole dish and distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top then bake for 30 minutes. I like to turn on the broiler the last 2 minutes to ensure the top gets a nice crunch.