Curried Carrot and Lentil Soup

I received a comment on my Roasted Tomato post that got me thinking. Tiffany of Como Water wrote that January is 1/12 of my life and I should find a way to enjoy it. I had never thought of it that way. To me winter has always been something I need to survive to get to the good stuff. I decided to try to figure out what it is about the winter that bothers me so much. Basically it comes down to two things; the dark and the cold. It’s pitch black when I wake up in the morning and its pitch black when I leave the office at night. The darkness is depressing and tiring. And then there’s the cold. Yuck. I’m one of those people who thinks a hot humid day is heavenly. The cold makes me, well, cold. And tense. Every time I step outside I can feel all of my muscles contracting, and they stay stuck that way all day.

So what can I do about this? My first solution is to spend some time outside and enjoy what little sunshine there is. I’m thinking walks at lunch could cover this. The second solution is to stay warm. If I’m going to enjoy my walks I need a good coat (can you say Canada Goose?).

And I need nice warm bowl of soup when I get home at night.

My first soup of the month is Curried Carrot and Lentil. It was kind of  an experiment as I had no recipe to follow, but I think for the first time a non baking experiment has worked for me. The carrots and red lentils are a great base to the soup, the curry and cayenne and some nice heat, and the coconut milk adds just the right amount of creaminess. I think it’s perfect to come home to on a cold January night.

Curried Carrot and Lentil Soup

  • coconut oil or olive oil for frying
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated (can be substituted with powder)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • plain yogurt for serving
  1. In a large soup pot, sautee the onions and carrots for 3 – 4 minutes until the onions have softened.
  2. Add the mustard seeds, curry, and ginger. Cook, stirring to keep the onion from burning, until the mustard seeds start to pop.
  3. Add the cayenne and lentils, then add the broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Let cool, then puree with an immersion blender or blender until smooth.
  5. Serve topped with yogurt.

Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato with Pesto

In general I would say that February is the worst month of the year. It’s cold, it has no holidays (in Quebec), and it’s vegetables taste like nothing. On top of that it has Valentines Day, which for a chronically single person is unpleasant to say the least. It’s the shortest month of the year but it takes sooo long.

To combat my dislike of February, I’m planning on taking 3 of its 4 Friday’s off of work. Instead of dreading it, I’m now looking forward to my 4 day weeks. Unfortunately this has had a side effect. I now feel that January is the worst month of this year. It’s cold, its holiday is over, and its vegetables taste like nothing.

I think the tomato is the worst culprit when it comes to lacking flavour in winter (yes, I know it’s a fruit). In the summer, tomatoes are juicy and flavourful and fun. In the winter they are grainy and weird.

Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to fix this. Steps like drizzling them in olive oil and popping them in the oven to roast. Roasting tomatoes gives them a nice rich flavour. If I close my eyes when I take a bite I can almost believe it’s July and they came from my parents garden instead of some farm in Peru. Almost.

The recipe is from Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That. It takes roasting tomatoes one step further by using pesto instead of olive oil. I decided to push it a little further by adding goat cheese to the mix. It’s a simple combination that tastes wonderful.

Roasted Shrimp with Goat Cheese

It’s December! How did this happen? I didn’t even notice November passing by, and now all of sudden I’m in the middle of the holiday rush. I told myself that this year I’d be prepared, get things done in advance. I even set up a series of reminders in my calendar, but I ignored them because I thought I had lots of time. Sigh.

This recipe is great for those of us who are pressed for time. It comes together in less than 30 minutes, and a lot of the ingredients are pantry staples. If you’ve got shrimp in the freezer you could probably make it right now. The recipe is based one from Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That?

Roasted Shrimp with Goat Cheese

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 cups puréed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 pinch fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 pound shrimp
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 5 ounces goat cheese
  • 3 tbsp parsley, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Heat half of the oil in a large oven proof pan over medium heat. Sautée the onion till softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and cook till reduced by half, scraping off any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the tomato puree, oregano, and fennel seeds, as well as salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. While the tomato is simmering, mix the bread crumbs, parsley and remaining 2 tbsp of oil together. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. After 10 minutes, place the shrimp in a single layer over the sauce, then sprinkle with bread crumbs and goat cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through.

Enjoy!

Magazine Monday – Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash


(Photo by my brother)

Michael Symon is my favourite Iron Chef. It’s not that I think his food is any better than the others, I supposed I’d have to taste them all to make that call, I just like his personality the best. I think it might be the giggle.

When I saw this recipe in Food and Wine in March I immediately added it to make “to make” list, not only did it sound delicious, it was also a  Michael Symon recipe. It sat on the to make list for a while, but I finally got around to making it this week. I replaced the vinaigrette with some lemon juice and olive oil to make it sugar-free challenge friendly, and I was missing a couple of ingredients so I just used the ones I had on hand for the stuffing. Oh, and I used acorn squash instead of delicata. Okay, maybe that’s a lot of changes but I think it’s still true to the spirit of the original recipe.

This is my Magazine Monday post from this week. Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice has been a little swamped lately (she was working on Sunday!) so I’m hosting this week. Here is what the other Magazine Monday-ers were up to:

Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • 2 acorn squash, halved with the seeds scooped out
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 large Cortland Apple, cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • crumbled feta to taste
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Season the insides of the squash with salt and pepper, and brush with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet skin side down and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. While the squash is roasting, cook the quinoa. In a medium pot, boil 2 cups salted water. Add quinoa and cook for 10 minutes. Add raisins and cook until all the water has been absorbed.
  3. Mix cooked quinoa with the diced apple and pistachio. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice.
  4. Scoop the quinoa mixture into the center of the cooked squash.
  5. Top with crumbled feta.

Enjoy!

Indian Spiced Popcorn

I’m finding the sugar-free/gluten-free challenge to be a little tougher this time. I’m having more sugar cravings than I did the first time around. My nutritionist would say I’m missing protein, but I think it’s because I don’t have the support group I had last time. Those of us doing the challenge would get together and compare notes, and since I was doing the challenge with Janice we had daily chats comparing menus and sharing ideas. This time it’s just me and my blog (although Janice is still hearing about, thanks for listening!)

So I decided to make myself some popcorn as a treat. Popping my own kernels made this totally within the rules, and to make it a little more interesting I added some curry powder and chili powder to the melted butter. The spice gave the popcorn a really nice kick. I could have eaten it all day.

Indian Spiced Popcorn

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • curry powder, chili powder and salt to taste
  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot (make sure you use one with a lid) with the oil. Add the kernels, cover and turn on heat to medium high.
  2. Let the pan heat till you start to hear kernels popping, then lower the temp to medium. Shake the pot occasionally until you don’t hear kernels popping anymore. The whole process takes 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl.
  4. Add spices to butter then drizzled over popcorn. I like the layering method to ensure even popcorn coverage.

Magazine Monday – Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Last November I participated in a 30 day sugar free/gluten free challenge.  The challenge was difficult at first, because every single meal has to be planned, but once I got the hang of it things went very well. By the end of it I felt great. When it came time to implement what I had learned in every day life things kind of fell apart. I quickly went back to eating exactly the way I was eating before the challenge. A year later I feel like my diet needs a complete overhaul again, so I will be doing the challenge again starting tomorrow.

I was flipping through some magazines to plan next weeks menu when I came across this recipe for Summer Rolls with Sweet and Savory Dipping Sauce from Gourmet Quick Kitchen. I swapped out the tofu for shrimp, and used green pepper instead of cucumber because I had those on hand. The dipping sauce does not meet the sugar free rules, as it calls for some sugar, and hoisin sauce also has sugar in it. But since I’m starting the challenge tomorrow I decided to go ahead and make the sauce for today.

The quick pickled vegetables add a great flavour to the rolls. They are very tasty, and quick and easy to make. I probably should have rolled them a little tighter, but I was still able to pick them up and dip them in the sauce.

I’ll be submitting this post to Magazine Mondays. Head on over to Cream Puffs in Venice Mondays to see what people have been cooking up!

Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Makes 8 rolls

  • 2 oz dried bean thread noodles
  • 3 small carrots, cut into match sticks
  • 1 smell bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp & 3/4 tsp lime juice, divided
  • 8 rice paper rounds
  • 24 medium-large shrimp, cooked
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Soak noodles in hot water for 10 minutes.
  2. While noodles are soaking, blanch carrots in boiling water for 45 seconds. Rinse under cold water then transfer to small bowl with peppers.  Toss vegetables with rice vinegar, 3 tbsp lime juice, salt. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Reserve 2 tbsp of the vinegar mixture, and drain the vegetables.
  4. Drain the noodles, rinse them in cold water twice. Using kitchen shears, cut the noodles into smaller pieces. Toss with 3/4 tsp lime juice.
  5. Fill a shallow pan with warm water. Soak a rice paper round in the warm water for 30 seconds. Shake off excess water and place on a work surface. Place 3 shrimp, some vegetables, and some noodles on the bottome third of the round. Roll tightly around the filling, folding the sides in. Repeat with remaining rice paper rounds.
  6. Make the sauce; Mix reserved pickling liquid with hoisin sauce, peanut butter and water. Serve with rolls.

Enjoy!

Carrot and Lentil Salad

Have you ever eaten so much junk you feel like you need to eat vegetables all day to clean out your insides? Maybe that’s just me. I ate an awful lot of sugar cookies this weekend, on top of a delicious but probably not so healthy meal at the Dominian Square Tavern (loved the corn fritters and homemade ketchup), so I felt like I needed a healthy veggie based meal.

Enter this Carrot and Lentil Salad. I based it very loosely on a recipe from Food and Wine. When I say based I mean I remembered seeing a salad with carrots, tomatoes and chickpeas. I didn’t have any chickpeas on hand, so I substituted lentils.

Carrot and Lentil Salad

  • 1 cup french lentils
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 carrots, shredded
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook the lentils: In a medium sized pot, sautee the onion until translucent. Add the lentils then cover with two cups of water. Add oregano, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then simmer until the lentils are cooked. Drain any excess liquid.
  2. Toss the lentils with the carrots and tomatoes. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

Zucchini Fritters and Balcony Garden Harvest

I’ve been sick for the last couple of days. I think it’s from walking through all those puddles. Everyone knows germs get in through your feet, that’s why moms insist that their kids wear socks.

When I’m sick I crave comfort foods. One of my favourite comfort foods is french fries, but I wasn’t about to start peeling potatoes in my current state. So I started thinking about what else could satisfy my craving for deep-fried goodness. It hit me as I was looking through the vegetables in my fridge: zucchini fritters.
But I didn’t just want fritters. I wanted something cheesy to dip them in. The only cheese I had was goat cheese. Goat cheese dip sounded pretty good to me. Since I’m sick I decided to throw something healthy into the mix, the first cherry tomatoes from my balcony tomato plant.

The fritters and dip were delicious, but to be honest my favourite part of the meal were the tomatoes. There was something so satisfying about eating fresh tomatoes, bursting with flavour, that I grew myself.

I used Martha Stewart’s Zucchini Fritter recipe, and I based my dip on this recipe from Chatelaine.

Zucchini Fritters

  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • a handful of parsley, chopped
  • chives, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • oil for frying
  1. Combine the zucchini, salt, parsley, chives, egg and pepper in a bowl. Mix well.
  2. Add the flour and mix until there are no lumps of flour.
  3. Heat the oil in a small pan. Using a tablespoon take a small amount and make a ball with the batter.
  4. Fry 4 or 5 of the balls for 2-3 minutes a side until golden brown.
  5. Once cooked place on a paper towel lined plate to drain the oil.

Goat Cheese Dip

  • 140 gram package goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp  coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • chives for garnish
  1. Mix all ingredients except for the chives in a small bowl until well combined. If the mixture is too thick and more yogurt.
  2. Top with chopped chives.

Enjoy!

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Magazine Monday: Summer Vegetable Casserole

For me a great meal is all about the side dishes. A nice piece of meat is great, but how good are the potatoes on the side? I’ve constantly got my eye out for good side dish recipes, and this one from the August issue of  Food & Wine struck me as the perfect summer side dish. It’s packed with my favourite summer veggies; zucchini, tomatoes, peppers. And as a base, new potatoes!

I also got the chance to use some of the herbs I’ve got growing on the balcony. Everything has been going great, except for the parsley (weird, eh?). The recipe only called for thyme but I threw some oregano in as well, just for fun.

Summer Vegetable Casserole

  • New potatoes, sliced a 1/4 inch thick
  • Mushrooms
  • Plum tomatoes, sliced
  • Yellow peppers, sliced thinly
  • Zucchini
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Garlic
  • Fresh thyme and oregano
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan, grated
  1. Toss all the ingredients together except for the parmesan.
  2. In a baking dish, layer the vegetables in the following order; potatoes, mushrooms, 2/3 of the onion and green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and finally the remaining onion and peppers.
  3. Top with grated parmesan.
  4. Bake covered in foil at 350 for 40 minutes. Increase the temperature to 400, remove the foil and bake for another 25 minutes.

This was pretty tasty. The recipe is simple enough to let the flavours of the fresh summer vegetables shine through. Next time I make this I think I’ll add some goat cheese to the mix, or maybe a layer of ricotta and spinach, just to make it a little more substantial.

I’ll be sending this post to Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Monday. For those of you who don’t know, Magazine Monday is a chance to get through all those magazine recipes we all have earmarked to make and then share your creations. Head over to her site to check out what everyone else is up to!

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Quinoa and Veggie Stuffed Portobellos

My eating habits haven’t exactly been super healthy lately. It’s not that I’ve been eating junk food, but I’ve been eating out a lot, having quite a few drinks, and there was this, and this, and that. So I’m trying to come up with tasty but healthy homemade meals. tonight’s was definitely tasty, and I believe it would qualify as healthy. Portobello mushrooms stuffed with quinoa, zucchini, peppers and spinach.

I usually stuff Portobello’s with italian sausage, so to get that flavour without the fatty sausage, I fried the zucchini in onion and garlic with some fennel seeds and hot pepper flakes. The mushrooms can’t hold enough liquid to cook the quinoa, so I cooked it while frying the zucchini. Then I combined all the ingredients and a bit of pureed tomato, filled the mushrooms, topped them with a bit of mozzarella and baked them at 450 for 10 minutes.