smushed up lentils.

It doesn’t matter what you do.

It doesn’t matter if you’re granted the beauty of natural lighting or if you’re stuck with nothing but orange infused incandescent.

It doesn’t matter.

Smashed up lentils will never look pretty.

HOWEVER!!!

Smashed up lentils can (and should!) taste delicious.

Especially when they’re mixed with Indian spices, caramelized onions and crunchy walnuts (yes, you heard me right!)

I’m obsessed with these tasty burgers.

I love how quick they are to throw together.

And they freeze really nice too, which means you can have lunch or dinner within seconds for those times when time is not an option.

(Warning: some carnivorous cats may try to eat them, unaware that tonight’s dinner is completely vegan…sorry, Humphrey!)

 Indian Spiced Lentil Walnut Burgers

This recipe was adapted from Mollie Katzen’s lentil burgers in her Moosewood Cookbook.  I like making them with the addition of some common Indian spices, which are tasty as well as beneficial.  Spices such as turmeric are known for their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

For leftovers, freeze each patty individually and take out when you want a quick ‘n’ easy meal.  Enjoy!

  • 3/4 cup dry lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup very finely minced walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup crushed flax seed
  • optional: serve with avocado, sweet vidalia onion slices, spicy salsa, and/or sliced tomatoes
  1. Place lentils and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the liquid is mostly gone.  Drain any remaining liquid.  Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add vinegar.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except the flax seed, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the sautéed mixture and flax seed to the lentils and mix well. Chill for about 1 hour before forming patties.
  3. Form 4-inch diameter patties by grabbing a handful and gently forming into a round ball; smush lightly into a patty (patty will be fragile.)  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet or spray with cooking spray, and sauté the patties on both sides until heated through and crispy. You can also just broil them for about 5 to 8 minutes on each side.  Enjoy!
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apple smothered pork chops.

The simplest pork chop begins with a couple of apples, a dash of cinnamon, a bit of brown sugar, and one onion.

Cooked, cooked, cooked.

Until you spot that fine balance, where the apples are forced into a decision of either holding together or falling delicately apart.  All smokey and steamy and oozing with spicy-sweet aroma.

Meanwhile.

In another pan.

The pork chops are browning.

Just as they are.  With just a drizzle of oil to prevent any unwanted sticking.

And before you know it...voila!

You just scoop the apples on top and pretend that you slaved away all day.

When really?

All you did was stand in the kitchen, watching a few apples and pork chops cook.

And that, my friends, is the simplest pork chop.

Apple Smothered Pork Chops
(Serves 4) 

  • 4 bone-in, center-cut pork loin chops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 large tart apples, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  1. In a large skillet, brown pork chops in oil.  Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 145°.
  2. Meanwhile, in small non-stick skillet, cook the apples, onion, cinnamon and brown sugar over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until apples are softened. Smother pork chops with apples and serve. 
QUESTION: What is your “simplest” tried and true, no-fail recipe?  Baked beans!  Aside from the waiting time, they’re ridiculously easy to whip together.  A sure crowd pleaser. 😀

lentil edamame stew.

This is Part 30 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

If there was one food group that I wish I could sneak onto every single American’s dinner plate, it would be, quite simply, the legume.

Yes.  The legume.

(And not just because I love rolling the word “legume” off the tip of my tongue with an over-the-top, horrendous French accent, either.)

Any legume will do, really.

Black beans.  Split peas.  Kidney beans.  The lovely garbanzo.

Legumes are chock full of fiber, protein, iron and the really good-for-you complex carbohydrates.

Yep.  Legumes are worth getting to know.  They’ve got lots to offer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My favorite legume happens to be the lentil.

They don’t require the soaking time of most beans.  They’re ready in under 20 minutes.  They’re $0.99 a pound.  What’s not to love about that?

Tonight I made a nice ‘n’ spicy lentil edamame stew.

 

Well.

Spicy from my standpoint, anyways.  I’m the girl who could do without the taste of chili powder or tabasco sauce on my tongue.

(Of course, if you like to live on the spicy side of life, go all out with a heavy hand of crushed red pepper!)

Oh.
And if you’re still on the fence about eating a big bowl of lentils for dinner, serve this as a side dish with your main meal or eat a smaller sized bowl as an afternoon snack.
Incorporating more legumes on a daily/weekly basis is a smart move for each and every one of us.

From a health, economic and taste standpoint, legumes are really and truly a wonderful thing.

After finding your favorites, I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before they become a regular in your house.  Right next to those other pantry essentials.

Enjoy!

Lentil Edamame Stew–as seen in Cooking Light Magazine
(Serves 4-6 as a main)

  • 2 cup dried lentils
  • 1-1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups minced red onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  1. Place lentils in a large saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, and set aside.
  2. Place edamame in a small saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above edamame. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until edamame are tender. Remove from heat; drain well.
  3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and tomatoes to pan; sauté 6-10 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring often. Stir in lentils, edamame, juice, and remaining ingredients. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often.
QUESTION: What is one of your favorite (affordable!!) healthy foods that you consume on a regular basis?  Lentils and oatmeal are two of my favorite cheap-o health foods!  They’re very versatile in the kitchen.

a pot of bean soup.

Honestly?

I haven’t been much in the mood for cooking lately.

This, I’m sure, has something to do with the overabundance of chopping and whisking and baking that was done over the course of the past few days.  It has left me in a funk.

But, alas, even when I’m not in the mood for cooking, people still need to eat (me included.)  And the idea of purchasing a couple of Subways was completely out of the question (I’m practicing a new form of frugality before considering it my official “New Year’s Resolution.”)

Besides, I thought to myself, a pot of soup can basically cook itself.

While the soup did just that (cooked itself, I mean) I wrote down all of the things which I spend too much money on and which things I would like to spend more.  All in preparation for my upcoming resolution.

My motto is that there is never a better time to start than today!

(For the record, bean soup is ridiculously affordable.)

I spend too much at coffee shops.  And books and magazines, which could just as easily be borrowed from the library.

I would like to spend more on fitness (it’s an investment for life) and on the organizations which I feel strongly about supporting (can we say local soup kitchens?)

And I’d like to find more frugal meals for the week, balancing out the pricier meals (wild caught salmon = not cheap but totally worth every penny!)

Let me just get it out there.  This doesn’t always come easy for me.

It’s not that I go crazy at the mall or buy a daily soy latte from the ‘bucks.  But I do have my moments, and I’d really like to put some serious thought into where each and every hard earned penny goes.  Not to be a scrooge or a penny pincher.  Just to be, you know, made aware.  

Huh.  What do you know?

It seems that after all this talk and discussion, the soup is done.

It pretty much cooked itself.

Trader Joe’s 17 Bean and Barley Mix
(Serves: 6-8)

This soup has a bountiful mixture of baby lima beans, black turtle beans, blackeye peas, dark red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, great northern beans, green lentils, green split peas, large lima beans, light red kidney beans, navy beans, pink beans, pinto beans, red lentils, small red beans, small white beans, yellow split peas, and pearl barley.

That would be exactly seventeen nutrition-packed beans.  Phew.

I followed the recipe on the back of the bag very closely, but added in some extra garlic, extra tomatoes, some watercress and some hot pepper to spice things up a little.  It’s a very comforting dish for a chilly autumn day.  Enjoy!

  • 1 16 oz. bag of Trader Joe’s 17 Bean and Barley Mix (or, any combination of the beans listed above)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2-15 oz. cans diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic (or plain)
  • salt, pepper and tobasco sauce to taste
  • 4 oz. bag of watercress, chopped
  1. Soak beans overnight in a large pot with a good amount of water.  Drain and rinse.  Pour 4 cups broth into pot with beans.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate pan, cook onion, celery, carrot, pepper, basil and garlic in olive oil until soft. Combine this mixture and remaining ingredients into the bean pot and cover with more broth. Simmer covered for about 1 hour to desired tenderness. Be sure to occasionally check liquid level and add more broth if necessary. Salt and pepper and add tobasco sauce to desired taste.  Add watercress and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What are some ways you practice being frugal?

a drop of pumpkin.

Who put this hill here?

Why do my feet hurt?

“Define yourself”…huff, puff…”you can do it”…huff, puff…”just keep moving”…

With the internship and the RD exam behind me, I’ve just recently started increasing my running mileage beyond my typical 3 miles.  Mostly because these past few weeks of routinely running three miles, three times a week has felt a bit like pulling candy from my teeth (or pulling chewing gum from a lump of pennies, which is another story altogether…I’m sure you don’t care to hear about that one!)

Every once in a while this happens.  I fall into the mold of not really enjoying running.  Border line despising it.

(*gasp!*)

But despite being bored to tears, I kept plodding on, because I knew that one day I would wake up and I would feel like running.  As in really running.  And I didn’t want to be starting back at ground zero when this happened.  Three miles was my base and I planned on keeping it that way.  Sometimes its important to back off.  In this case, I felt it was important to push through.

And then, it finally happened.  Two days ago, I wanted to run 5 miles.  And so I did.  Today I ran another 5.  And I’m beginning to really have an itch for those really long runs.  Soon.

Very soon.  

In the meantime, my appetite is skyrocketing due to this slight increase in exercise.  And so, this afternoon, I decided to make a batch of pumpkin drops.

Admittedly, pumpkin drops are not much to look at.  They’re this funny combination of biscuits and scones and muffins.  Unfortunately for the drops, however, they didn’t obtain any of the muffins’, scones’ or biscuits’ good looks.

But once you get passed all that, you’ll undoubtedly fall in love.

In love with its crusty exterior, its soft, pillowy interior.  Its subtle, soft flavors.  Its spice for life and those little bits of chewy raisins, intermingled with cinnamon, sugar and clove.  Love.

They’re spicy and warm and deliciously comfortable in their own skin.

Grab two with a glass of milk and voila!  You have breakfast.  Or take one with a cup of tea for a light afternoon snack, after a workout, or before a workout.

I think you’ll love them no matter how you decide to eat ’em.

Hearty Pumpkin Spice Drops
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cups old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup butter, chopped
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. milk
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin (such as Libby’s)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients (flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices.)
  3. Cut in butter and combine using two knives, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  4. Add dried fruit to dry mixture if desired.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients (milk, pumpkin, vanilla).
  6. Gradually add wet mixture to the flour mixture and combine until a soft and sticky dough is formed.
  7. Coat baking pan with cooking spray.  With two spoons, drop pumpkin mixture into 8-12, rounded drops.  In a small separate bowl, combine 1 tsp sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon.  Sprinkle on top of drops.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until drops are golden-brown on top and beginning to brown underneath.  Cool on a wire rack or serve immediately.  Best eaten warm…ENJOY!
    QUESTION: What is your go-to way to stay physically active when life gets busy?  I like to fit physical activity into my usual, daily habits.  Running up and down the stairs, parking far away from the grocery store, etc., when I can’t seem to fit exercise in otherwise.  But nothing beats the feeling I get from a really good run. 😀

rolling away the worries.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not normally a worry wart.  Maybe because I don’t let myself get into any sort of situation in which I can even become one.

Yes.  I’ve studied the night before an exam, a time or two.  I’ve gone shopping for someone on Christmas Eve thanks to Miss Procastination.  I’ve been late for an important meeting.  And yes, with all of these kinds of things, I get a little frazzled.

But.  I handle it.  

But this dietitian exam?

This is different.

I’ve spent 4 years climbing my way through chemistry, biology, anatomy, medical nutrition therapy.

I’ve spent almost 1 year completing three separate rotations to pass my dietetic internship.

And now.  It’s all coming down to one. final. exam.

I can feel my Type A personality coming out.

I want to be perfect.  I want to know everything.  I want to pass on my very first try.  I want these past three months in which I spent hours and hours of relentlessly studying, to come out and prove themselves once and for all.

And.

Most of all.

I want to finally be able to say that I’m a Registered Dietitian.  I’ve wanted this meaningful title since I was 17.  And now that it’s so close, I can taste it.  I can feel it.  And I’m most definitely worrying about it.

Needless to say, I am officially (currently) a full-blown worry wart.  Until the end of September, sometime, when it will either all be over, or it will all re-start.

And since I’ve come to terms with this fact, I decided that some therapy might be in order.  Something to carry me through the hours, days and months of studying.

 I figured you might conjure a guess as to what this might be.

Because, as you know, an evening of simmering, sauteing, stirring is oftentimes just what you need to unwind and refresh.  With some Norah Jones ‘n’ Brad Paisley too (along with lots and lots–I do mean LOTS–of praying!!!)

Cooking.  Eating.  Smiling.

Sometimes that’s just what the body needs.

Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls

  • 4 cups water
  • 8 large green cabbage leaves
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  1. Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in a large skillet. Add cabbage leaves, cover, reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until softened, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Transfer the cabbage leaves to a dry paper towel to cool. Discard the water in the pan and dry.
  3. Heat oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, salt to taste. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile stir cheese, olives and 2 tablespoons mint into the quinoa. Mound about 1/2 cup of the mixture at the stem end of each cabbage leaf. Roll into a bundle, tucking in the sides.
  5. When the tomato sauce is ready, add the cabbage rolls seam-side down. Cover and cook until the rolls are hot all the way through and the cabbage is very tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Serve the cabbage rolls topped with the sauce. Garnish with mint, if desired.  ENJOY!
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite ways to unwind?

The problem with being sort of (kind of) semi-employed.

As soon as I graduated from college with a degree in nutrition, I entered right into a 10-month internship.  People wanted to know how much I was getting paid.  (Secretly, I kind of liked the shocked faces I received when people learned that I was the one doing the paying, not the other way around!)

And then I graduated from my internship.  And people immediately wanted to know if I had a job.  When (where?) was I going to move out of my parents’ house?  And what kind of job was I seeking out?  What did I want to see in my future?  Was I dating?  And, while I was at it, what is the purpose of life?

Honestly, these questions make me feel slightly uncomfortable.  Mostly because I just don’t know how to answer them.

First off.  Yes, I have a job.  But it’s not really a full-time job.  I’m getting paid for making research calls.  It goes something like this.  “Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m calling from such and such a study.  How are you?  I’m just calling to collect some dietary information from yesterday.”  And then I walk them through the process of portion sizes and various brands, all while making sure I don’t give any biased information or recommendations.

And I kind of, in a geeky sort of way, enjoy it.

But usually when I explain this to people, they want more of an answer.  Okay, so I’m working part time making research calls.

What else? 

The truth is.  I’m still looking.  And as I’m sure many of you know and understand, job hunting is a job in and of itself..

As is cooking for the family.  Filling out resumes.  Making research calls.  Studying for the RD exam.

Not to mention, I have no idea what kind of job I would like to do at this point.  I’m pretty much set on taking any sort of clinical position, although in the long term, I’d like to have some variety and spice.  A little freelance writing, maybe.  Counseling.  Teaching a few gym classes.

Cooking would be nice.

Who knows?

All I know is that this whole indecisive, awkward, not really sure kind of answer is the problem with being sort of (kind of) semi-employed.

Yes.  This is the absolute problem of being busy, swamped, and crazy, without really knowing how to explain myself.

In the meantime, I’ll keep on job hunting.  And studying.  And working like crazy.

(And no, I’m not currently dating.  I’m in no huge rush to move out before finding a good, steady job.  And while I have some idea of the purpose in life, this would take more than one post to discuss.)

So, as always, I will continue to cook.  Because this is one thing that will always make complete sense.

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Vegetables as seen at EatingWell.com

(Serves 4)

Use this flavorful combination of shrimp and vegetables to top your linguine, brown rice, whole wheat couscous or quinoa.  And make a double batch if you’re planning on leftovers!

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, asparagus, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 6 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl; cover to keep warm.
    2. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk broth and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth and add to the pan along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve the shrimp and sauce over the vegetables.
    QUESTION: What are you currently doing for a job?  Do you like it?