Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

It’s officially fall, and therefore, time to start making all the hearty soups and stews that warm the soul.  I’m a little late in jumping on the sriracha bandwagon.  I bought a bottle on the insistence of a friend several months ago who assured me that I would absolutely love it.  Now to explain my hesitance, when I was growing up, even mild salsa would break me out into a sweat.  I don’t know if it’s just getting older, or if my chips and salsa addiction gradually led me to spicier and spicier preferences, but nowadays I find myself wanting a little zip in everything I eat.  So when I finally got around to trying out sriracha sauce on some of my meals, I was in love.  It’s got the perfect balance of heat without the “on fire” feeling that so many other hot chilies can leave me with. 

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

I’ve been adding a bit of sriracha here and there to different tastes and textures, trying to find out what it blends well with.  This stew was one of the first ones I made once the cooler weather started hitting here (yes, it’s already been in the 30s at night!).  It turned out to be so delicious, even my kids ate it – and liked it!  That’s saying a lot, since they’re at that picky phase where they won’t touch anything besides pizza and PBJs.  I didn’t add quite as much sriracha knowing they would be eating it, but if your taste likes, add a little extra for some zing.  And if you’re worried about it being too spicy, start with the lower amount and then add more once it’s been cooked  – it will taste just as good, I promise!

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

This recipe for Sriracha Lentil Stew is vegetarian and can be made vegan if you omit the cheese and mayo at the end.  It is also gluten-free.  This is is another crockpot recipe, as well.  If I haven’t mentioned it before (which I’m sure I have), I love having my crockpot going most days.  The kids love how wonderful our home always smells and I like the ease of not having to stand over a stove.  Because there’s no meat in this, you have a bit more flexibility on the cooking time too.  If you cook it for 6 hours, the taste and texture won’t be much different than if you cooked it 10 hours. 

I used Chana dal, a split pulse in this recipe.  You can find this in the grocery store among Indian food or among the dried beans.  They add a nutty flavor and a great texture to the dish.  If your supermarket has a Bob’s Red Mill section like mine does, you may be able to find it there (or here, if you look on Amazon).  If you absolutely cannot find any, you can substitute with another dal, yellow split peas or pigeon peas.

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Purists take heart, I mixed all sorts of cuisines for this stew.  But I promise, it turns out wonderful.  The toppings at the end are optional.  Without the mayo and cheese, this would count as a dairy-free dish.  But I must say that they add an extra touch to the recipe.  I am a mayo lover (especially when combined with sriracha!) but you can also use a Greek yogurt or sour cream. 

Finally, I always encourage creativity with my recipes!  Please don’t feel like you have to follow it exactly – as I always say, baking is chemistry, but cooking is an art.  If you want less onion or more garlic, go ahead!  If you want to add peppers or omit the carrots, or add a ton more sriracha, or use BBQ sauce instead or whatever, go right ahead!  Experimenting in the kitchen is great fun and only makes you a better cook in the long run.

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

And finally, if you find yourself consistently making more than you or your family can eat before the food starts to go bad, remember that crockpot meals like this freeze very well.  I usually put mine into 1-1/2 cup portions in freezer bags (once they’ve reached room temperature), label them, and store them in the back of the freezer for up to 6 months for an instant, healthy TV-dinner on days when I’m feeling too lazy or busy to cook!

Now, without any more of my blabbering on, here’s my recipe for Sriracha Lentil Stew.  Enjoy!

~Mellie ★

 

Sriracha Lentil Stew
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  3. 3 minced garlic cloves
  4. 1 c diced carrots
  5. 1/2 c chopped celery
  6. 1 c dal, rinsed and drained
  7. 2 c red lentils, rinsed and drained
  8. 1 can (14 oz) stewed tomatoes, undrained
  9. 1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies, drained
  10. 1 can (4 oz) chopped mushrooms, drained
  11. 1 1/2 c marinara sauce or pasta sauce
  12. 1 c vegetable broth or water
  13. 1 t cumin
  14. salt and pepper
  15. 1/4 - 1/3 cup Sriracha sauce (depending on how spicy you like it)
Optional Toppings
  1. shredded cheddar cheese
  2. dallop of mayonnaise
Instructions
  1. Saute onion, garlic, carrots, and celery in olive oil with salt and pepper. If you're in a hurry, you can do this on a stovetop and then place into the slow cooker. If you're not in a hurry, just add the olive oil to the crockpot with the vegetables and heat over low heat for a half hour or so, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add remaining ingredients through the Sriracha sauce. Cover and let cook for 6-8 hours on low.
  3. Top with shredded cheese and mayonnaise if desired.
Nutritional Analysis
  1. (without cheese or mayonnaise and with homemade, rather than store-bought vegetable broth)
Per Serving
  1. Calories - 168
  2. Fat - 5.1g
  3. Cholesterol - 0mg
  4. Sodium - 387.3mg
  5. Potassium - 250.3mg
  6. Carbohydrates - 24.3g
  7. Protein - 6.7g
  8. Vitamin A - 38.4%
  9. Vitamin C - 18.6%
  10. Iron 15%
mellie blossom http://www.mellieblossom.com/

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Green Quinoa Salad Recipe

Green Quinoa Salad Recipe

I became a vegetarian over 20 years ago (and sheesh, I’m really showing my age when I say that!).  But when I did, I pored over all the cookbooks I took out of the library (using the card catalog! eek!) and took home every vegetarian cookbook I could get my hands on.  One of the most frustrating things for me is that, a new vegetarian with very little cooking experience, I was not only confronted with a new diet, but was absolutely clueless as to half of the ingredients that these cookbooks called for.  What was soya?  What was millet?  Or bulgher?  Or quinoa?  I came from a very midwestern, meat-and-potatoes kind of family and I was confounded with all this new information.

But, I’m a good student, and I made my way, twice a month, to the only health food store in town, a little place leftover from the hippie days that featured all sorts of strange things like bulk bins, ethnic ingredients and strange vegetables I had never heard of, much less tried before.  And so I dutifully picked one or two new grains to try every month, one or two new vegetables, and the unusual-named ingredients became a part of my cooking repertoire.  My sister followed in my vegetarian footsteps a few years later, and we had great fun making each other new and interesting dishes for our family get togethers. 

Fast-forward a couple decades and all these “unusual” ingredients are found in the aisles of every mainstream grocery store.  Health food stores are popping up in every city.  And there are still fun and exciting new foods to try!  I’m so grateful for the abundance and availability of things that were once so difficult to find.  Especially quinoa!

  Green Quinoa Salad Recipe

Quinoa is one of my favorite grain-type foods.  I love the nutty flavor, the texture, everything about it.  We’ve eaten it hot in casseroles and under stir-fries; we’ve eaten it cold in salads.  We’ve sweetened it for breakfast cereals and we’ve eaten it savory in frittatas and other egg dishes.  We’ve eaten golden quinoa and red quinoa – and even black quinoa!  It’s so incredibly versatile and delicious that it’s become a staple part of our diets. So when my sister called me a few weeks ago to tell me about her newest quinoa creation, I had to try it right away.

Now my sister’s tastes and mine are quiet different.  She likes things… bland (my word, not hers!) and I prefer food that is much more seasoned and flavorful.  So I took her basic salad and tweaked it just a little and came up with this winner – a perfectly refreshing, and very healthy salad that’s great for summer days. 

Green Quinoa Salad Recipe

This green quinoa salad recipe was the star of several picnics we had over the past couple of days.  It just tastes green!  The spinach, arugula and cucumbers can be garden fresh, and the feta cheese gives it just the right amount of tang, balancing out the vegetables and blending with the quinoa.  I love the added lemon flavor, but if you prefer a more basic salad like my sister, you can use a good quality olive oil alone.  It still is a wonderful salad and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

~Mellie ★

Green Quinoa Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  2. 1-1/2 cup vegetable broth
  3. 1/2 t cumin (optional)
  4. 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  5. 1/2 cup chopped fresh arugula
  6. 1 cucumber, chopped into large chunks
  7. 3 sliced scallions
  8. 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  9. 1 lemon, juiced (or about 2-3 Tablespoons)
  10. lemon zest, optional
  11. 1/2 t coriander seed (optional, but adds great flavor)
  12. sea salt
  13. black pepper
  14. feta cheese
Instructions
  1. Rinse the quinoa and agitate with your hands to remove any residue that could cause it to be bitter. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with the vegetable broth. Add 1/2 t cumin for extra flavor if desired. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer 10-15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Chop the spinach and arugula. Chop scallions and cucumbers. Place the cooled quinoa in a large bowl and add the vegetables. Stir to coat.
  3. For the dressing, combine olive oil with the juice of the lemon. Add lemon zest and coriander. Season with salt and pepper. Stir into quinoa and vegetables, mixing well.
  4. Serve topped with feta cheese.
mellie blossom http://www.mellieblossom.com/

Recipe: Roasted Squash Seeds

Roasted Squash Seeds

Roasted Squash Seeds

Thanksgiving is right around the corner now, isn’t it?  We picked up all sorts of delicious and traditional thanksgiving fruits and vegetables from our veggie co-op, including fresh cranberries, sweet potatoes, a small mountain of pearl onions and enough squash to last us through the New Year.  My kids were so excited to try the fresh cranberries; they talked about it all the way home.  I warned them that fresh cranberries didn’t taste like the cranberry sauce we have at Thanksgiving, but they wanted to try it anyway.  The expressions on their faces were priceless.  I wish I had gotten a picture!

Roasted Squash Seeds

Anyway, we got a good deal of squash, and that’s fine with me, because I’m a huge fan of winter squash.  I never ate them growing up – not even pumpkin pie!  But I acquired a taste for their slightly sweet and incredibly filling flavor as an adult and I have had a lot of fun over the years searching out, growing and sampling different varieties.  Delicata is one of my favorites with its very light flavor; another one I really like is Kabocha… and the classics like Acorn, Spaghetti, and Butternut are staples around here since they’re so easy to find.   I think one day I’d love to have a corner of the yard filled with all different types of squashes. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Roasted Squash Seeds

Roasted Squash Seeds

If you’re like me, and planning on using winter squash for holidays this year – or making it anytime, really, don’t throw away your seeds!  Roasted pumpkin seeds seem to be a staple around Halloween, but roasted squash seeds are – in my opinion – even tastier.  I think a lot of people just toss them aside without even realizing that they’re not only edible, but delicious.  My kids will eat an entire bowl of roasted squash seeds, and it’s a great (free) snack since the rest of the squash is being used up otherwise.

Roasted Squash Seeds

Roasted Squash Seeds

vegetarian * makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

2 cups seeds from winter squash – any kind

1 T melted butter

Salt, to taste

 

Separate seeds from winter squash, but do not rinse them.  Remove any large pieces of squash sticking to the seeds, but don’t worry about the smaller pieces of pulp.  They add to the flavor of the roasted seeds.  (Here’s an idea of how mine looks before cooking):

Roasted Squash Seeds

Line a baking dish with foil to make cleanup easy and place seeds in.  Pour the melted butter on top and mix well.  Sprinkle liberally with salt.  Place inside an oven heated to 300* and let cook for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring every twenty minutes or so, and moving the seeds in the middle to the edges so as to cook evenly.  Baking times can vary quite a bit depending on how pulpy your seeds are.  More moisture on the seeds means a longer cooking time.  Just keep your eye on them. Seeds will be done when they are all brown and crispy (but not burnt).  We love salt here, so I usually sprinkle the finished seeds with a little more salt, but do at your own preference.

You can make these even more flavorful by adding seasonings prior to baking, too.  Garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce – just a dash each – are my favorites, but my kids won’t eat them that way, so we stick with the basic recipe.

Roasted Squash Seeds

These are a great addition to your appetizer table as well as a nutritious snack too.  Pumpkin seeds are high in Vitamin E, full of healthy amino acids and are a good protein source.  Plus, any kind of healthy snack that my kids willingly eat is a keeper in my book!  So, there it is – a great way to make a super snack while saving food scraps.

Roasted Squash Seeds

Roasted Squash Seeds

 

I wanted to snap a few photos of the roasted squash seeds once they were warm enough to share, but two very patient little boys (who had been counting down the minutes) came over and started snacking away before I got a chance.  They munched away, brightly talking about their day and making play plans for the rest of the afternoon to come.  After a second helping, and happy to have had their fill, they left just enough for me to have a good-sized serving tonight after they go to sleep… maybe with a big glass of tomato juice.  Or maybe I should make that a Bloody Mary?  Either way, at least there will be something healthy for me to munch on!

 

~ Mellie ★

How to Make a Great Potato Salad

How to Make a Great Potato Salad

On the Fourth of July, I am typically asked to make potato salad for our family gathering.  It’s a classic for picnics and barbecues.  I, like so many others, have my own special recipe for making the perfect potato salad, and I was going to share that here today.  But then I thought that a better idea would be to discuss the technique of how to make a great potato salad instead.  There are hundreds of potato salad recipes online, it seems, and many of them are very similar, with just a little bit of difference here and there.  So when it comes down to it, the “best” potato salad is going to come down to personal preference.  Rather than another potato salad recipe, then, here are some tips in making your best potato salad.

INGREDIENTS

POTATOES

First, the potatoes.  I have a secret.  I am a lazy potato cooker.  I don’t peel my potatoes, and I don’t boil them.  For my potato salads, I always used steamed russet potatoes that have been cooled.  It’s an easy process: heat the oven to 350*, wash your potatoes, wrap them up in foil and then place them directly on the middle rack.  Bake for an hour, and cool off.  Then chop and use in salads.  The skin is full of vitamins, so I like leaving it on.  And a steamed potato is not as flaky as a regular baked potato, so it holds its shape better.

However, purists will prefer a waxier potato.  Red skinned potatoes are perfect for potato salads, and fingerling potatoes will cut down on chopping and peeling, since their skin is so thin.  If you have Yukon Golds, you can expect a potato salad not so much full of chunks of potato, but of a bit more of a potato mash.  Which still sounds delicious to me!

For a more unique potato salad, you could even add in a sweet potato as well.

How to Make a Great Potato Salad

HARD BOILED EGGS

I love hard boiled eggs in my potato salads, so these are a must for me.   If you don’t like them, though, it certainly won’t take away from a delicious potato salad.

 VEGETABLES

The classics are red onion, green pepper, and celery.  You can alter these as much as you want, though.  Red onion can be substituted with scallions, sautéed yellow onions, or omitted.  You could add minced garlic to kick it up a bit.  Green pepper can be swapped out with a sweeter red pepper, or you could even add some pickled jalapenos.  Think of other vegetable additions that enhance flavors, such as black or green olives, or mild green chilies.  Chopped pickles, either dill or sweet, can be a nice addition as well.  Cucumbers add crunch, and avocado will add a creamier texture.

Other, less common ideas for veggies include peas, corn (or baby corn), and even steamed broccoli.  Chopped and cooked beets go well with sweeter salads.  Crunchy jicama and raw, peeled kohlrabi are two more delicious and exotic additions.

When you have the pre-dressing ingredients assembled, take a taste test.  Do you prefer a crunchy, vegetable-heavy salad, or a creamy, egg/potato one?  Balance the ingredients out so that you have what you’re looking for.

 

How to Make a Great Potato Salad DRESSING

The dressing makes or breaks a potato salad!  Typically your potato salad dressing starts with a base of mayonnaise and mustard.  There’s a huge divide between those who like original mayonnaise and those who prefer Miracle Whip, so go with what you most enjoy.  I never really measure my ratios, usually it’s about 6:1 mayo to mustard.  But as with everything else, take a taste test.  You’ll have a lot of variation on taste depending on if you’re using a grainy brown mustard, a yellow stadium mustard, or a spicy Dijon style.

TART vs SWEET

The next step I use to make the dressing is the addition of vinegar and sugar.  What you’ll do here is add enough vinegar and/or sugar to make it as tart or as sweet as you want.  I prefer a tangy dressing, so I go a little heavier on the vinegar, but if you overdo it, you can always use the other to balance it out.  So if my dressing is too sweet, I’ll add more vinegar, and vice versa.

Again, you have variation here in the type of vinegar you use.  Red wine vinegar will give a different flavor than distilled white vinegar.  I like using apple cider vinegar, but balsamic or white wine vinegar are two other kinds that would give a distinctive and delicious flavor.  There are also a plethora of infused vinegars that you could use as well.  Be creative, and remember to taste test as you go along.

CONSISTENCY

Once the four main dressing ingredients are combined, you’ll want to check to see if the consistency is appropriate.  Again, a lot will depend here on your preference.  Some like a very thick dressing, and others a thinner style.  Add a little bit of milk if your dressing is too thick.  A good way to thicken up a dressing is to add very well mashed hard boiled egg yolks or some softened cream cheese.

FLAVOR

Next, flavor the dressing, if you’d like.  Adding a little bit of pickle relish is standard, but you might want to add a drop or two of liquid smoke, or even Worcestershire sauce.  Play around and keep taste testing!

SEASONINGS How to Make a Great Potato Salad

For the final touch, add your seasonings.  Start with a small amount.  Remember you can always add more, but if you use too much, it’s a lot more work to even out.  Salt and pepper are a basic starting point.  Dill weed and celery seed are two more common seasonings in potato salad dressings.  You could add a touch of thyme, garlic powder, or even a small bit of lemon peel.  Paprika is always used here to dust to the top of potato salads, too.  Fresh herbs are always ideal, and parsley is a classic addition.

When you’re happy with your dressing, combine it with your potato mixture, and the next step is to:

 

CHILL, CHILL, CHILL

Chilling the potato salad for a few hours really gives the dressing a chance to infuse with the potatoes and vegetables, so give yourself enough time!

TOPPINGS

After chilling, potato salads are ready to go, but you can add an additional topping to make it even more luxurious!  French fried onions, bacon bits and roasted sunflower kernals make a delicious crunchy topping.  You can line the perimeter of the serving dish with hard boiled egg halves or sliced olives for decoration, and dust the top with paprika.

Remember, the toppings go on right before serving so they don’t get all mushy.

 

IN CONCLUSION

So there you are, some tips that will hopefully help in how to make a great potato salad.  Keep in mind, I approach cooking the same way I approach crochet – as an art, not a science.  Strictly following recipes (or patterns) are a great way to learn something new, but the fun comes in modifying it so that it suits you perfectly.  Have fun with cooking and remember, there’s no right or wrong way.  Just your own preference.

What do you like to add to your potato salads?