Kung Pao Lentils

 When my 5 year old son is sleep-deprived and hungry, he turns into Wild Child. You know, like that case of the child that was raised by wolves in the 70’s? Only thing is, he was raised in a civilized home with all the teachings, love and amenities that any 5 year old would dream of. 
Getting punched enough times by your son while waiting for a train during morning rush hour that a Chicago Transit Authority officer actually intervenes is not how I wanted to start my week last week. Watching your definitely-too-old-to-crawl-child crawl on hands and knees through a group of gawking construction workers as I juggle my awkward laptop case, purse,  lunch and hot coffee cup is kind of what nightmares are made of. Yet squatting obstinately in the middle of oncoming traffic are his normal responses to exhaustion. Thankfully, they are not mine.
After a traumatic hour of walking alongside this mobile war zone, I finally got him across the threshold of school. And like magic, he’s happy. We manically hug, kiss and high five until the teacher practically peels him off my body. And I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I want to scream. I go home. I take a personal day. I cry. Because let’s face it, kindergarten is hard. And I never wanted to be the mom who couldn’t function because of the stress of momhood. But it was one of those days. 
Luckily I had this week’s heart-warming Lentil Kung Pao from Vegan Richa to cheer me up. It’s sweet and sour, with a hearty bite of crunch that is kind of an outrageous way to enjoy my favorite legume! I think especially great about this recipe is how adaptable it is with other proteins and vegetables. I’m just going to go ahead and copy and paste the recipe because it’s perfect.
KUNG PAO LENTILS
Ingredients: Serves 3 to 4
For the Lentils: 
1/2 cup dry brown lentils, washed and drained
1.5 cups water

For the Sauce:
2 to 3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp dry sherry or rice wine
1 tsp hoisin sauce (or use more soy sauce)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 to 3 tsp raw sugar (or use 1 to 2 Tbsp maple syrup or other sweetener)
a generous dash of lime zest (1/4 tsp)
2 tsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp water

For the vegetables:
2 tsp grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
1/2 cup chopped white or red onion
4 dried red chilies like arbol or red chinese, broken into halfs (or use red pepper flakes to taste)
3 Tbsp cashews or peanuts
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch knob of ginger minced
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
3/4 cup chopped celery
Method:

Combine the lentils water and salt in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain excess water. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine and set aside. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add onion and chilies and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cashews and mix for a few seconds. Add garlic and ginger and mix in. Add the peppers and celery and mix well. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add in sauce and cooked lentils and mix well. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the sauce thickens and is absorbed by the lentils. Serve with cooked rice of choice.

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Lentil Curry Bowl

IMG_3378There is no country in the world as strongly associated with vegetarianism as India. With approximately 500 million Indian vegetarians, there are an abundant number of hearty bean and vegetable dishes packed with soulful spices. I especially love browsing the array of sauces and chutneys at the supermarket that each lend their own subtle heat. This easily reproduced Lentil Curry Bowl is sweet and smokey, and the tangy coriander chutney adds a salty balance that will keep fresh in the fridge all week!

LENTIL CURRY BOWL
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tablespoons red Thai curry paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
12 ounces tomato puree
1 potato, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
Pinch of salt
Cilantro for topping
Swad brand coriander chutney

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add the curry paste and spices and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the lentils, tomato purée, potato, red pepper, and broth. Simmer until lots of the liquid has evaporated – continue adding ½ cup of water as needed as the lentils will just keep soaking it up. Repeat this process for about 30-45 minutes until the lentils are soft. Serve in bowl topped with fresh cilantro and heaping tablespoon of coriander chutney.

Lentil Ratatouille

lentil stew

10 Things You Should Know about Being a Working Mom:

1. Coming home from work is actually when the hard work begins
2. Your Kate Spade will soon become affectionately known as the “snack bag”
3. There may come a day when you steal a roll of toilet paper from work because you’re down to half a roll between 3 adults and 2 kids and you just need to get through the night
4. What’s the point in a manicure since they only last a day?
5. You will frequently be getting into bed for a “nap” at 4am before getting up for work an hour later
6. Waist-high shared lukewarm baths with your toddler every night does not constitute a proper adult shampoo
7. Rewards cards now seem magical, especially since you will be buying new shoes every 4 months and no they are not for you
8. You now have “at home” clothes and “outside world approved” clothes. If you know people that have seen you in both then they are indeed a true and beloved friend.
9. You will be buying odd tomatoes that have been thrown in your grocery cart on Saturday mornings that you’re too embarrassed to put back
10. You can never have too many Goldfish crackers. Ever.

This week I was in the mood for a traditional hot ratatouille, but with a nontraditional twist of protein. This Lentil Ratatouille features a creamy braised eggplant and an earthy bite from the lentils. It can be eaten as a hearty stew or served atop any variety of pasta for a delicious dinner entree!

LENTIL RATATOUILLE
1 large firm eggplant, stem removed and diced into small 1/2” cubes
4 zucchini, stems removed and diced into small 1/2” cubes
1 bunch of basil, stems discarded with leaves torn into small pieces
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 jar of marinara
1/4 cup olive Oil
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 cup brown lentils
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot, boil 2 cups of water then add the lentils, bay leaves, and thyme. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer then cook uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes. In large pot, cook olive oil, onion and garlic on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Toss in the eggplant and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini and cook with cover on pot for additional 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add marinara and fresh basil and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove bay leaves from the lentil mixture, then add the lentils to the ratatouille mixture and serve hot.

Greek Lentil Taverna Salad

asher and everett This week we reached a major feeding milestone when Everett nonchalantly picked up a Cheerio from my hand, popped it into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. No choking. No gagging. Then he reached for another, and angrily slapped my hand away when I tried to put one into his mouth without giving him the chance to practice his fine motor skills. He has only just recently started snacking on the Gerber puff snacks which all but melt in your mouth so this came as a bit of a shock to me. I can’t believe our 9 month old is already self-feeding!

I have been racking my brain thinking of all the crazy baby recipes I used to make for Asher. Which reminded me of how he absolutely LOVED pureed lentils as an infant. Even to this day, I can pop open a can of Progresso lentil soup on a no-cooking day of desperation and he will gobble the contents of the can without even cooking it. Can I admit that to the world? I guess I just did.

lentils So today’s recipe is for an oustanding Greek Lentil Taverna Salad which did amazingly well in the fridge for a few days. It really could not be easier, and cost around $12 for 6 huge portions. Needless to say, Asher loved the lentils.

GREEK LENTIL TAVERNA SALAD
1 English cucumber, chopped into half moons
4 large beefsteak tomatoes, chopped into large pieces
1 red onion, sliced into slivers
1 package of crumbled feta (traditional flavor)
1 bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 cups of lentils
2 packages of cremini mushrooms, sliced into quarters
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, diced

DRESSING
Juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a sauce pot, boil 5 cups of water. Add lentils then let simmer for 20 minutes. When lentils are done, immedialty drain in collander and set aside to cool. In a frying pan, add olive oil and diced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Then add mushrooms and sautee for 7-9 minutes until the mushrooms have a nice brown color. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooled lentils with the mushroom mixture then add the salad dressing ingredients and let marinate for 10 minutes in refrigerator. Meanwhile, add fresh salad ingredients in a large salad bowl. When you are ready to serve, scoop a heaping portion of taverna salad with 1/2 cup lentils as a topping. The flavors from the lentils will act as a dressing for the salad, but you can add additional red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper if needed. This can be made vegan without the feta, you will just need a tad more salt to bring out the flavors.

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.