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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Mexican Red Quinoa Soup

soup I often make grilled vegetables for the week to enjoy with pasta or salad, but it never occurred to me until this week to puree those grilled vegetables into a soup base and then pour that over a grain base to make a yummy stew. WHOA MAMA! Imagine the possibilities. It all started with this amazing recipe for a Mexican flavored vegetable soup with quinoa from Reboot with Joe which I altered slightly just because it is literally impossible for me to make a recipe without changing it somehow just for the hell of it. And now that the seed has been planted, I am definitely going to experiment more with spices, flavors and grains. This soup is hearty, sweet and spicy, and makes a nice substitute for the usual chili.

MEXICAN RED QUINOA SOUP
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
2 jalapeno chili peppers
4 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion
3 tomatillos, peeled
2 15 oz. cans of black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 cups organic vegetable broth
4 green onions, sliced
1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked red quinoa
sea salt and pepper to taste

veggies Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Discard all stems and seeds from the peppers (if you want it spicier leave in jalapeno seeds). Roughly chop field peppers and onion. S[read whole garlic in peel, whole tomatillos, cherry tomatoes, onion and peppers onto baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until pepper skin is soft, about 15 minutes. While roasting, heat broth in pot. Remove baking sheet from oven. Peel garlic and place all vegetables into broth, and add half of the corn and beans. Blend with a hand blender until smooth. Add remaining corn and black beans, stir, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over bed of quinoa and garnish with chopped scallion and cilantro.

Vegan Chipotle Lentil Burgers

chipotle lentil burger Asher gets a star on his chalkboard every time he has good behavior, and yesterday’s star featured the phrase “No, thanks!” underneath. We are in the process of teaching him manners, and at the end of the day when he reaches grumpy toddler zombie-exhaustion hour and pulls everything out of his art bin just to get a rise out of me, we quietly review his hard-earned stars for the day and he proudly recalls each story while pointing at the chalkboard. He gets big hugs. It works wonders.

I would like a star for today’s recipe. I can’t remember what wonderful website I found it on, but if you need to kick-up the spice level on your traditional summer veggie burger, this one’s for you! The spicy and smoky chipotle peppers work in harmony with the earthy lentils, and their smooth texture works well with any burger topping.

CHIPOTLE LENTIL BURGERS

1 1/2 cups brown lentils, cooked in 6 cups salted water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into medium dice
1/2 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped (stems and leaves)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chipotles, seeds removed, with adobe sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons red vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Put lentils, 6 cups water, and a little salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the water boils, reduce to a low simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils well. Preheat a large, heave-bottomed nonstick pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-hugh heat. Saute the onion for about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic, cilantro, and a pinch of salt, and saute for 7 to 10 minutes, until the zucchini is soft. Transfer the zucchini mixture to a food processor. Add all the other ingredients except for 1/2 cup bread crumbs and pulse until mostly smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Preheat the pan (the same one you already used to saute in is fine) over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs to the burger mixture and use a fork to thoroughly combine. Divide the burger mixture into six equal pieces. An easy way to do this is divide it in half, then divide each half into three basically equal portions. You can do that right in the mixing bowl if it’s large enough. Spray the pan with non stick cooking spray. Form the burger portions into patties and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping the burgers often, until they are nicely browned on both sides. Use cooking spray as necessary.

Mexican Lentil Salad

mexican lentil salad Today’s recipe I took straight from one of my favorite blogs – Kalyn’s Kitchen. The only difference is that I recommend making the lentil salad topping in one large batch so you can easily take it to work for the week and assemble it with some refreshing cold, crispy Romaine lettuce. It’s rich chili spices mixed with the sourness of the lime juice makes it perfect for summer!

MEXICAN LENTIL SALAD
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, cooked in 6 cups salted water
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 can (6 oz. drained weight) black olives, cut in half
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1-2 avocados, diced
1 cup pickled banana peppers or pepperoncinis
Juice from 2 fresh-squeezed limes
6 cups chopped Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 package of taco seasoning
1/2 cup vegetable broth

Put lentils, 6 cups water, and a little salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the water boils, reduce to a low simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils well. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the chopped red onion and saute for a few minutes, until the onion starts to soften. Then add the taco seasoning and saute about 2 minutes more. Add the lentils and vegetable stock and simmer until the liquid has all evaporated. Turn off the heat and let the lentils cool. When cooled, add sliced olives, tomatoes, green onions, avocado and toss with extra lime juice. Served fresh over chopped lettuce, or bring lettuce to work separately and enjoy this tasty dish all week long!