Lentil Stew with Red Chard & Roasted Eggplant

Matt’s away, which means I can turn into a vegetarian for a few days. I thought some lentil stew would be a good dish to start with. This is a variation of a stew I came up with a while back, swapping out the carrots and kale for eggplant and red chard. I decided to roast the eggplant first so it wouldn’t turn to mush in the stew.

It’s not truly vegetarian because I used chicken stock, but it can easily be replaced with vegetable stock if needed.

Makes 2-3 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones and debris
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups diced eggplant
2 cups chopped red chard, stems and leaves
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/2 tsp salt

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and stir to coat with the oil. Cook on medium to medium low until browned, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place lentils in a pan and add enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, drizzle the eggplant with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast until golden. I did this in my toaster oven and it took about 10 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through.

When the onions are browned, add the tomatoes, roasted eggplant, lentils, and chard. Stir together then add the stock and salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer about 20-25 minutes.

Serve with brown rice or whole grain bread.

EDIT: I ate some of the leftovers with a little hot kimchi and it was very tasty. It would also be good with a little hot sauce.

lentil & eggplant stew

Banana Bread

I always seem to have old bananas. I try to only buy 2 or 3 at a time so I can eat them before they get too brown, but I guess my preferred window of ripeness is too short. At least there’s always banana bread.

Banana Bread

Category: Breads, Vegetarian

Servings: 1 loaf

Banana Bread

  • 2 cups (9 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a nonstick loaf pan, or just the bottom of a regular loaf pan. (I used an 8"x4" pan although the recipe suggests a 9"x5" pan. It worked fine, just had to bake it about 10 minutes longer.)

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes (65 minutes for a smaller pan). Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Chocolate Banana Bread Variation

Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder with flour mixture, and fold in 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.

chocolate banana bread

07.11.2017 – tried this in the Instant Pot today. 1 cup of water in pot, 8″ cake pan on trivet. 50 min High Pressure, 10 min natural release, then quick release. Let cool in pan.

I don’t think this cooked long enough. The bread is very dense and a bit underdone. Might work better in a bundt pan and add 5-10 min.

Italian Wedding Soup

After a couple weeks of eating take-out and way too many Christmas cookies, this soup really hit the spot. The meatballs are full of flavor, with a little kick from the red pepper flakes.

All the herbs I used were dried but you could definitely substitute fresh herbs if you have them. Just double the amount. Parsley would also be good here, but I didn’t have any on hand.

Italian Wedding Soup

Category: Soups & Stews

Servings: 6-8 servings

Italian Wedding Soup

I like to brown the meatballs before adding them to the soup, but you can certainly just drop them right into the simmering broth to cook.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz ground turkey
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • couple grinds of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1 14-oz can tomatoes
  • 1 cup orzo or other small pasta
  • 8 cups broth (low sodium or homemade)
  • 4 cups torn kale

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add milk, breadcrumbs, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt, pepper, cheese, and garlic. Mix well to combine. In a large bowl place ground turkey. Add the egg mixture and mix well. Form into 1-inch meatballs. Brown the meatballs in an oiled pan, then remove from pan and set aside (to make cleanup a little easier, brown the meatballs in the same pot you'll make the soup).

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrots, salt, pepper, and thyme and saute a couple minutes, until starting to get tender. Add tomatoes, pasta, and broth and bring to a boil. Add the kale and meatballs and simmer about 10 minutes, until the pasta is tender.

Serve, topped with additional parmesan cheese if desired.

Arroz con Pollo

This was fantastic. Tender, juicy, chicken that fell right off the bone. Nutty, brown rice with just the right touch of seasonings. This is definitely one I’ll come back to again and again.

Arroz con Pollo

Category: Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Main Dishes

Arroz con Pollo

As I mentioned in the comments, I used a brown rice blend, but I think it would be equally good with any kind of rice.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 1/4 lbs chicken thighs (about 5), skin and excess fat removed

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onion and cook on medium until soft. Add garlic and rice, stir to coat, and cook, stirring, about a minute. Add seasonings, tomatoes, and chicken broth. Place the chicken pieces on top. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer until the rice is tender, about 45-60 minutes.

Gingerbread Cookies

For me, Christmas is just not the same without cute, decorated cookies. Sometimes I make both sugar cookies and gingerbread men, but this year I decided to simplify things and just make one kind of roll-out cookies. Of course, gingerbread won, hands down.

I ripped this recipe out of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s food section a few years ago and I’ve been making it every year since. This year I decided to replace the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat, which I’ve been doing with a lot of recipes lately, and they turned out great. Now all I have to do is decorate them… and make the rest of the cookies on my list.

gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

Category: Desserts

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Beat the butter with a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the brown sugar, then the molasses. Add the egg and mix well.

Sift together the remaining ingredients and gradually add to the butter mixture, mixing well.

Divide the dough in half, form into 2 discs, and chill for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes, transferring to a cookie sheet with a spatula. Bake for about 6 minutes, rotating the pan after 5 minutes for even browning. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Decorate with royal icing.

Adapted from the Philadelphia Inquirer

gingerbread men

Potato, Spinach, & Fennel Gratin

Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables. Very aromatic, similar to licorice and anise. I love it tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and roasted, or in this carrot-fennel soup. I got the idea for this gratin while browsing tastespotting and saw this potato-fennel gratin with Gruyere. It jumped out at me because I’ve had this chunk of Gruyere that I’ve been using in everything lately.

Instead of a cream-laden gratin I wanted to make one similar to the potato-kale gratin I made a couple months back – basically layering some vegetables with bread crumbs and a little shredded cheese then throwing it in the oven for a while.

I made this in my smallest casserole dish which is about 5-1/2″ x 9″. Not a standard size, I know, but this kind of recipe is adaptable for any size pan. The amounts don’t have to be exact, in fact, I don’t think I measured anything. It’s my favorite kind of recipe.

Leftovers are good for breakfast or lunch the next day with a fried egg.

2 medium thin-skinned boiling potatoes, cut in 1/4″ slices
1 fennel bulb, sliced (white bulb part only)
1 small onion, sliced
olive oil
1/2 bag spinach
bread crumbs
shredded Gruyere
shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Boil potato slices in salted water for about 2-3 minutes, until tender, but not cooked through. Drain into a colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

Saute the fennel and onion in olive oil on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Rinse the spinach and shake off excess water. Add the spinach to the pan, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted. Cool slightly and roughly chop. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish and spread it around. Arrange half of the potato slices to cover the bottom. Season lightly with salt and pepper and top with half of the spinach, then half of the fennel-onion mixture. Sprinkle evenly with the cheeses, then with breadcrumbs. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, until top is crispy.

Pecan Pie Squares

I made a test batch of these to see if I should include them in my christmas cookie rotation. I’m happy to say they passed! The recipe is from One Smart Cookie, which is a collection of cookies, squares, brownies, etc, with less fat. I like the cookbook, but last year I tried making a couple of the recipes for christmas and I ended up dumping them in the trash. Of course, I was mostly to blame, because I made some modifications without testing out the original recipe first. Big mistake.

These are definitely not low-fat, but compared to regular pecan pie squares they are a slightly better alternative. I used chopped pecans instead of halves because when I went shopping for ingredients the pecan halves were sold out. I like them this way though.

From One Smart Cookie

Makes 16 squares

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
pinch salt
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 375°F and spray an 8″x8″ pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add flour and salt and stir until well combined and crumbly. Press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 12 minutes, until just barely golden around the edges.

In the same bowl (no need to wash it), combine egg, egg whites, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add flour and salt and stir until well blended.

Arrange the pecans evenly over the crust and pour filling over top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffed and golden. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Caramelized Onion & Spinach Quiche

I’d never made a quiche before this. My mom used to make them every so often and I wasn’t too fond of them. The egg, bacon, and onion combination didn’t sit right with me.

This one is completely different. Sweet caramelized onions, sharp Gruyère, vibrant green flecks of wilted spinach. Together they are absolutely marvelous.

This is based on a recipe from Simply Recipes. I lightened it up a bit and tried to make it a little healthier. To start, the crust is made with white whole wheat flour. I had half and half leftover from the parsnip soup so I used that instead of heavy cream, replaced one of the eggs with 2 egg whites, and cut the amount of cheese by about half. I also threw in about half a bag of spinach.

» View Recipe

Beef Stew (aka Big League Stew)

Matt suggested I call this Big League Stew, in honor of the Phillies game tonight. Go Phils!

This stew was very loosely based on the Irish Beef Stew from Simply Recipes, but I didn’t really follow it at all. I just needed a general idea to get started, and the end result was just fantastic. I served it over toasted slices of no-knead bread that I made again yesterday. I know I’ll be making this stew all winter.

And look! We finally got some new plates!

Beef Stew (aka Big League Stew)

Category: Main Dishes, Soups & Stews

Servings: 4-6 servings

Beef Stew (aka Big League Stew)

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb stew beef, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups carrots, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (about 6 medium)
  • 4 cups cubed red potatoes (about 10 small)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef with salt and brown on all sides. Add onion and cook for a couple minutes, then add garlic and cook another minute. Add tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and beef stock. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour.

Add the carrots and potatoes and simmer, uncovered, until very tender, about 40 minutes. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper as necessary. To thicken the broth, mix flour with about 1/2 cup water and stir into the stew. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.

Serve over toasted crusty bread or biscuits.

Kale & Potato Gratin

Dinner tonight was roasted chicken and this kale and potato gratin. The aroma coming from the oven was amazing. I really enjoyed this gratin. The soft potatoes and garlicky kale are so good together. I added some red onion because I had some to use up, and I think it made it that much better.

Kale & Potato Gratin

Category: Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Servings: 6-8 servings

Kale & Potato Gratin

  • 1 1/2 pounds thin-skinned boiling potatoes such as red potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves cut in 1/2-inch thick shreds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp coarse salt (note: this was a bit too much salt - next time I would try 1 tsp)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • bread crumbs
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Boil potatoes in salted water for about 2-3 minutes, until tender, but not cooked through. Drain into a colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the kale and rub the olive oil mixture aggressively into the leaves. Layer the kale, potatoes, and onion alternately with a sprinkling of bread crumbs and Parmesan in a 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, until top is crispy.

Adapted from the Kitchn