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!

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. 😀

dressed up pollock.

I went for a nice long walk around the nearby lake today, and I experienced this vivid flashback of when I used to go fishing with my dad.

Floating on trusty ol’ Rita–our big green canoe–we would paddle our way to the middle of some lake and then we’d just sit there.  We’d sit there for hours and hours with our fishing rods, waiting patiently until we felt the gentle tug of a fish.

(or a floating piece of seaweedoops!)

We’d spend the day swatting at pesky mosquitoes and talking about nothing and everything all at once.  We’d watch dragon flies skim above the mirrored sheets of water, the sun reflecting colorful sparkles off of their shimmery wings.

As a 10 year old girl hanging out with her dad, I was convinced that each delicious moment was just a tiny speck of what heaven would someday feel like.  The perfect time of day.  Feeling nothing but happiness.  And, probably, spending time talking to God about nothing and everything all at once.

Heaven.

And really, at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter if dad and I went home with trout or without.  

It was the experience.

It was delicious.

And it had (absolutely) nothing to do with the fish.

Fast forward 14 years.  I became a dietitian, promoting fish and all of its health benefits and how delicious it can be and so on and so forth.

But, well, here’s the clinker…

I don’t really like fish very much.

Wild caught salmon, yes.  I could eat that every single day of my life and never grow tired of it.*

*this is not at all an exaggeration

But all the other fish, like halibut and haddock and cod and pollock?

Meh…

(unless it’s fried, but what *doesn’t* taste good when it’s been batter dipped and deep fried?  Honestly?)

Maybe you’re like me.  You could take fish or leave it, but you’d still like to make it a bigger part of your diet.

Or maybe you love all fish.  Any fish.

Whatever the case may be, let’s all admit that salsa makes everything better. 😉

You could just douse your fish in butter and breadcrumbs, but that sort of negates the whole “heart healthy” point of eating more fish.  Better saved for those special occasions, “once in a whiles,” or eating out.

Salsa and avocado, however, add flavor AND health benefits.  An easy way to sneak in that extra dose of veggies and some heart healthy fats.

I really do find most white fish to be lacking in flavor, which is just one of the reasons why I lean more towards cooking with salmon.

Add a zing of fresh salsa and avocado (and maybe a splash of lime!), however, and tada! 

Dinner becomes delicious.

Most grocery stores carry the fresh salsas like this one in the refrigerated cases of the produce department.  Nestled deep somewhere between the tofu and the alfalfa sprouts, and sometimes near the refrigerated salad dressings.

And since you can recreate almost any meal with nothing but a scoop of fresh salsa, I’d say it’s worth seeking out.

Salsa and Avocado 
(Serves 2) 

Pollock fillets were on sale this past week, and it just so happens that I had a tub of salsa to use up.  Perfecto!

This super simple salsa, however, also goes well on marinated tofu steaks, grilled chicken breasts and thin slices of lean steak.  Or, you could just serve it with some black beans and tortilla chips for a tasty afternoon snack.  Enjoy!

  • 1/3 cup fresh salsa
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • fresh lemon juice
  • black pepper
  • cilantro (optional)
  1. Combine ingredients together.  Serve immediately.
QUESTION: Do you eat much fish on a regular basis?  What are you favorite kinds/recipes?  I’m not a big fish person, but I do love fish tacos, wild caught salmon and manhattan styled fish chowders. 😀

fighting the common cold.

It’s that time of year again…

I’m not actualy sick.  Yet.  But it’s happening.  I can feel it.

My eyes are starting to burn.  My throat feels like pea soup.  A 3-mile run left me beat.

Tonight, I didn’t even cook.

I just threw some Dr. Praegger’s veggie burgers on the pan along with some whole wheat hamburger buns.

Nothing pretty.  Nothing fancy.

Just simple and tasty.

With a little last-minute help from the broiler. 😉

With all these colds and flu’s floating around, I wanted to share some tips on how to stay healthy through the cold and flu season.

Of course, there’s no guarentee that these things will keep you from getting sick (cough, cough…obviously!…cough, cough,) but they sure do help.

Did you know that having just one mild vitamin deficiency can make all the difference in having a great versus a poor immune system?

While many people turn to supplements (or gallons and gallons of orange juice,) there’s no prescription quite like an overall healthy diet filled with plenty of whole grains, dark green veggies, legumes, fish, yellow fruits and veggies, etc.  Getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, and getting a daily dose of exercise are also key in keeping your body healthy and protected.  It won’t prevent you from ever getting sick, but it will provide defense and it will help you get better quicker.

In other words, don’t want until you get sick (or start popping those vitamin C pills!) to fight back.  Feed your body what it needs with real, nutrient dense foods and it will reward you with good health.

When you do get sick, continue eating well.  Take light walks as you’re able.  And forget those vitamin C pills!  Although this is an important vitamin in keeping a healthy immunity, there has been no proven benefit to overdosing on this vitamin; one orange will provide almost your entire day’s intake of vitamin C.

Feed your body well.  It knows how to take care of itself. 😉

QUESTION: How do you “fight back” when you get the cold/flu?  I try to stay well hydrated and well nourished.  I also absolutely crave oranges, tea and veggies when I’m sick.  And, unless I’m really sick, I find that small walks throughout the day make me feel eons better.  😀

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.

favorite cookbooks (and a veggie scrambler)

This is Part 24 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

I’m a little obsessed with cookbooks.

Okay.

That might be an understatement.

My entire closet is packed full of them, one end to the other.  From Julia Child to Cooks Illustrated to Clean Food.  

(Actually, it might be borderline obsessive?!?)

So I thought it might be fun to share with you, some of my favorite cookbooks of all times.  The ones I turn to when I want something delicious the first time around.  The ones that I without a doubt, trust.

The Moosewood Cookbook might very well be one of the first cookbooks I started cooking with.  My aunt lent me her copy when she heard I was mostly into cooking vegetarian fare.  I bought a copy the next day.  It’s lovely.  I most enjoy the soups.

The Cooks Illustrated Light recipes have never let me down.

Never.

Sometimes the recipes can be a bit time intensive, but I’m okay with that as long as I know the end product will be worth the effort.  This is a wonderful cookbook to have for when company is coming and when you still want to prepare a lighter meal (lighter chicken parm, anyone?)

Better Homes and Garden is my go-to cookbook for when I want basic recipes.  Like granola.  Or sugar cookies.  Or breads.  Basic but essential!

Okay.

I know we’re not supposed to play favorites, but.

Well.

Clean Food may just as well be.  The pages have more spots and stains than any other.  Ah, yes.  The true sign of a well loved, well used cookbook. 😉

~~~~~~~~~~

I made a veggie scrambler tonight for dinner.

The combination is always different.  Always tasty.

First, the brussels sprouts went into the 425 oven for 20 minutes (just a drizzle of balsamic on top.)

And the ‘shrooms, onions and spinach did their thing in the frying pan (with a lil’ olive oil.)

When the spinach started wilting, the scrambled eggs hit the pan…

And everything sort of just finished at the same time.

I love it when that happens.

Veggie scramblers.

Always different.  Always tasty.

QUESTION: What are YOUR favorite cookbooks?

Pineapple-Cashew-Quinoa Stir-Fry.

This is Part 23 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

I don’t know about you, but I get a little nauseous whenever I think of diet books.

But when a family friend recently told me about this increasingly popular book “Eat To Live” (and then let me borrow it,) I decided to read it with an open (albeit critical) mind.

My thoughts…

First, I really like the principles behind Fuhrman’s diet plan.  It’s closely tied to Michael Pollan’s idea of eating lots (and I do mean LOTS and LOTS) of fresh fruits and vegetables instead of worrying about the nitty gritty details of portion sizes, calorie counting or what have you.

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables.  That’s the book in a nutshell.

Along with fruit, they’re the main part of the diet plan, with the scientific backup of having the power to decrease cancer risks, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc.  When nutrient dense foods increase, our health and mood improve, and it leaves less room for other junky stuff.

The principles make sense and they are strongly backed up by science, which is important for any reliable diet plan.

That being said, I don’t think the book would be a good choice for obsessive or restrictive type personalities.  Nor do I think the diet plan is necessarily realistic for everyone.  And while I liked the points that he made throughout the book, I don’t like the idea of following a diet plan, per say.  It just takes the fun out of food!  

But the points he makes are good ones, and I think most of us could benefit from the guidelines that he so strongly encourages.

And.  Well.  I wasn’t planning on having tonight’s dinner meet so many of the “Fuhrman” standards, but it just so happened that it did.

Pineapple.

Cashews.

Red bell peppers.

“Diet plan” or not, there’s nothing nauseous about that. 😉

Pineapple Cashew Quinoa Stir Fry—slightly modified from the original Veganomicon recipe

Don’t let the length of this recipe scare you!  The quinoa can be made ahead of time and there really isn’t much chopping work involved.

I like to serve this with a dish of sauteed greens on the side, like swiss chard with grated carrots and raisins.   It makes for a very satisfying dinner or lunch the following day.  Enjoy! 😀

Quinoa:
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

Stir-fry:
4 ounces cashews, raw and unsalted
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 scallions, sliced thinly
1 hot red chile, sliced into very thin rounds
1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup frozen, cooked edamame (or peas)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, rolled and sliced in thin shreds
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
10 ounces fresh pineapple, cut into bite sized chunks
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable stock

PREPARE THE QUINOA FIRST:

  1. Combine the quinoa, juice, water, and soy sauce in a medium-sized pot.
  2. Cover, place over high heat,and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir a few times, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa appears plumped and slightly translucent.
  4. Uncover, fluff, and let cool.
  5. For best results,place the quinoa in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.  If you’re in a hurry, chill the covered quinoa for at least an hour.

PREPARE THE STIR-FRY

  1. Use the largest nonstick skillet you have (at least 11 inches in diameter) or a wok.  Have ALL of your ingredients chopped and easily within reach.
  2. Place the cashews in the dry pan and heat over low heat, stirring them, until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the cashews from the pan, raise the heat to medium, and add the peanut oil, scallions, and garlic.  When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the sliced chile pepper and ginger.  Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then add the red bell pepper and edamame.  Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until the bell pepper is softened and edamame is bright green.
  4. Add the basil and mint, and stir for another minute before adding the pineapple and quinoa.
  5. In a measuring cup, combine the soy sauce and vegetable stock.  Pour over the quinoa mixture.  Stir to incorporate completely and coat the quinoa.  Continue to stir-fry for 10 to 14 minutes, until the quinoa is very hot (it helps to use two spoons/ spatulas to scoop the quinoa around).

QUESTION: Have you read Eat To Live (or another popular “diet” book)?  Thoughts?