Moroccan red lentil soup.

Hello lovelies! I’m back, after an unexpected hiatus. It’s been a whirlwind the past four weeks, fueled by scattered and sporadic eating, late nights, and so. much. homework. Graduate school is no joke!

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Is it summer where you are? It’s Memorial Day weekend, and here I am, your trusty soup-fiend, bringing you another delicious and absolutely, positively, insanely healthful vegan recipe. Because here in NY, it’s been rainy, windy, and chilly. I’m not complaining, summer can hold off for as long as it wants. The chilled Spring we’ve been having has been just splendid. Among other reason, grey rainy skies equal soup. Lentil soup to be precise. Pulses such as lentils are no strangers around here, but making the same recipes over and over can get a little (a lot) boring. Did you know that lentils are nutritional powerhouses? Full of antioxidants and protein and iron, all packed in that tiny little package. Today we’re going to infuse this soup with tons of flavorful spices that are going to create a warming, intoxicating soup.

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This soup is intoxicating thanks to the spices we’re going to use: cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, turmeric, cinnamon. If you want to really take this over the edge, top with a squeeze of lemon, garnished with parsley and cilantro. I skipped the herbs for these photos, but trust me, they add an amazing fresh, herbaceous flavor. Give your lentils a new spin!

Moroccan red lentil soup. 

ingredients
1 cup split red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock + 1.5-2 cups water
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon coconut/grapeseed oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger, minced
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch (1/8 teaspoon) cinnamon
3/4-1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
28 ounce can crushed or petite diced tomatoes with juices

optional to garnish:
fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped

directions

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and carrots and saute for five minutes or until softened and translucent; stirring frequently to prevent browning. Add cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper, stirring to allow to spices to “bloom” or become fragrant for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Add red lentils, 4 cups vegetable stock, 1 cup water, and tomatoes. Increase heat and allow the soup to come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer, partially cover and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes until lentils have softened but have not broken down. If too thick, add additional 1/2-1 cup water. Taste and add additional salt or pepper if desired.

Ladle into bowls and top with herbs and lemon before serving. Makes 6 servings.

*Please use organic ingredients where possible* 

herbed brown rice mujaddara.

Today we are headed to Lebanon for recipe inspiration. Mujaddara. Mujaddara is a classic Middle Eastern dish that consists of rice and lentils, cooked together, topped with caramelized onions and herbs.

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Commonly referred to as a ‘peasant dish’, this dish has been a staple dish for many communities for centuries, with the first recorded mention of mujaddara dating back to the 13th Century in Iraq! It’s with good reason this dish has stuck around for so long: It’s GOOD.

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Simply, this dish is rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. There are a plethora of recipes out there, some with herbs, some without. Some direct you to cook the rice and lentils together, some have them cook separately. My recipe has you cook the rice and lentils together, and then cook the onions while the rice mixture is simmering away. Caramelized onions may seem like a labor of love, and while they are time-consuming, all they need is a stir every few minutes, and perhaps a splash of water to prevent burning. You do not need to stand over the stove watching them continuously, a la this polenta!

I used brown rice, as it provides more flavor, fiber, and complex carbohydrates into the dish. Especially if you are eating this as a main dish as I did, it’s important to find ways to incorporate as many vitamins and minerals as you can at every opportunity.

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The herbs provide a major hit of herbaceous, vegetal deliciousness, but you can scale down to 1/2 cup to suit your preferences. I used a mix of parsley and cilantro (2:1), but feel free to use any combination you’d like! Whole cumin seeds are preferable, but if you only have ground cumin, just add that in with the salt and pepper instead of with the onions. If you’re feeling fun, top this with a fried egg! Mmmmm. At any rate, enjoy this classic. It’s lovely.

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herbed brown rice mujaddara.
adapted from Bon Appetit. 

ingredients
4.5 cups vegetables stock or water
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1.5 teaspoons each sea salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup fresh mixed herbs (such as mint, parsley, and/or cilantro), chopped, divided

directions
Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice, lentils, and bay leaf and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until rice and lentils are tender, 35–40 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let sit 5–10 minutes (there should still be some broth remaining). If dry, add in a cup of additional broth and mix together. Discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper and ground cumin if using instead of seeds. Set rice mixture aside.

While the rice and lentils are cooking, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cumin seeds and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often and adding water to pan as needed to prevent burning, until onions are golden brown and soft, 35-40 minutes.

Mix half of onion mixture and half of herbs into rice mixture; season with salt and pepper. Top mujadarra with remaining onions and herbs. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Makes 4-6 servings.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

salsa de chile ancho.

Salsas are so easy to make, yet except for the occasional pico de gallo, I pretty much always purchase them. How about you?

A few years ago, my dad and I made a whole bunch of salsa during our epic canning/preserving weekend. I loved it, but my dad thought it left something to be desired. I’ve always been intrigued by the varieties of dried chiles you can find in those little plastic boxes at the grocery store, but they always seemed like they would be such a chore.

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Oh, how wrong I was! I bought anchos for a four-pepper chili recipe, and was pleasantly surprised at how simple they were to prepare. Although they are dried, they still maintain some flexibility and pliability, and although I softened them in some stock for that recipe, this salsa recipe has you toast them and then prepare them dried, and I promise it is a breeze! This salsa will take you less than 10 minutes start to finish, and it is so completely worth it.

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Anchos are the dried version of a poblano chile, and they have a deep, complex flavor that is often described as having a similar flavor to a spicy raisin. Sounds weird, I know. But trust me, you’ll love it. Removing the seeds allows for the finished salsa to be warm with a mellow heat that will appeal to a wide variety of palates.

I used some crushed tomatoes that I had hanging out in the fridge, but you could certainly swap in a fresh tomato or two (I would use plum/roma tomatoes). Where I live, fresh tomatoes are amazing for 3 months out of the year, other than that, I always turn to canned, as out of season fresh ones tend to be mealy and bland. Yuck.

Note that this recipe is flexible and adaptable, as salsas can be customized in pretty much any way your heart and stomach desire! Eat with chips, add to tacos/quesadillas/burrito bowls, or my favorite way, mixed in with homemade tortilla chips for chilaquiles, topped with a fried egg. Mmmm. I know what I’m having for brunch!

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salsa de chile ancho.
adapted from https://kathleeniscookinginmexico.wordpress.com. 

ingredients
4-5 dried ancho chiles
3/4 cup tomatoes (I used canned diced)
1/2 small white onion
4 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
pinch of sea salt
1/2-1 cup hot water

directions
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the ancho chiles, and toast for 30 seconds on each side. Make sure not to blacken them, as it will impart a very bitter flavor. Remove from heat, cut the stems off, and scrap out seeds. Keep the skillet on medium low heat.

In a blender, add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, ancho chiles, oregano and salt. Process in a blender. The mixture may “get stuck”, this is when you’ll add the water. Process for 10-15 seconds longer, making sure not to process the salsa too smooth/runny. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon without it running right off.

Add one teaspoon of oil to the skillet. Add the salsa and cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the salsa to cook, lightly bubbling. Taste and add additional salt if desired.

Store in a small glass container for up to 10 days. Makes 1.5 cups.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

spicy tomato + kale soup.

Another day, another soup recipe! Are you sick of me yet? If not, hooray! I am most grateful. And I ask that you join me on today’s delicious journey. I’m mashing up some favorites: soup (specifically tomato soup) and kale. If you’ve been around my blog at all, you know that I love both of those things. See: here, here, here, and oh yes, here! for evidence.

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This soup is perfect for entertaining. It’s completely allergen free and dietary restriction friendly! Gluten free, meat free, seafood free, dairy free, nut free, the list goes on! Not to mention, it’s beyond good for you and nourishing.

I already had a meat-centered dish on my week’s menu, so I used vegetable stock and am using cannelloni beans instead of cream or half and half for a vegan-friendly soup. Because there is no dairy in this soup, it is a great candidate for making ahead and freezing. The kale is nice and sturdy, so it holds up quite well to freezing and reheating.

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Serve with some toast and topped with some extra crushed red pepper for an extra kick, and enjoy!

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spicy tomato + kale soup.
adapted from foodbabe.com

ingredients
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2-1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
36 ounces crushed tomatoes (I often puree canned whole tomatoes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock
1 teaspoon each dried rosemary, basil, sage
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 14 ounce can of cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups water
1 bunch fresh kale, rinsed and chopped

directions
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions, garlic and carrots for 5-7 minutes until they are softened, onions translucent and fragrant. Add sea salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and rosemary, basil, and sage, and stir to combine. Allow the spice to cook and ‘bloom’ (they will become quite fragrant as they cook) for an additional minute.

Add pureed tomatoes and vegetable stock. Allow the soup to come up to a rapid simmer, reduce heat and partially cover. Let cook for 20-25 minutes, and then add the rinsed cannelloni beans. Stir together and allow to continue to simmer for additional 15-20 minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in stand blender. Add chopped kale and cook for 5-10 minutes until kale slightly softens. Taste, and add additional salt/pepper/crushed red pepper if desired.

Serves 6. Freezes well.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible*  

winter vegetable soup.

It feels funny to post a winter soup recipe on a weekend where the weather was a record breaking 63 degrees yesterday!

Still, I was making soup regardless of the weather, and in typical NY fashion, we’ll be back to mid-30’s tomorrow. It was fun while it lasted! But, now, it’s time for winter vegetable soup with mustard greens.

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I saw this soup in an issue of Real Simple, and I loved the idea of swapping kale for spicy mustard greens in soup. As evidenced by this blog, kale is a mainstay in my recipes, soups and in other dishes. It’s always a good idea to switch up your greens to ensure the best variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and for a savory palate like mine, mustard greens are a perfect fit! They are bitter with a bite, and they go perfectly with flavors of this soup: silky sweet potatoes, smoky flavor from the paprika (make sure to use smoked not sweet or hot!), and the tomatoey broth. The freshness and bitter taste is so lovely.

This winter vegetable soup may not be the prettiest bowl on the block, but it’s vegan, gluten free, and paleo and allergen-friendly. Just in time for these last few weeks of winter. Enjoy!

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winter vegetable soup.
adapted from realsimple.com 

ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 cracked black pepper
14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock
1 large bunch mustard greens, stemmed and chopped
parmesan cheese, for serving

directions
Preheat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and heat a tablespoon of oil. Cook onion, garlic, and paprika in oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, sweet potato, salt, and pepper; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mustard greens, tomatoes, and chicken broth; simmer 25 minutes.

Serve topped with parmesan. Serves 4 as a main dish.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

 

basic, perfect polenta.

I’ve been trying to get better at meal planning for the week, as I already make about 24 stops at Wegmans/Trader Joes/public market/natural foods store each week. It never fails, I inevitably forget an ingredient or pick up a quick meal. I always have the best intentions to do a weekly shop…

A few weeks ago, I picked up some hot turkey Italian sausage at a great price, but never had time to make it, so I promptly tossed it in the freezer. When I did said weekly meal prep, I decided to cook up that sausage with some marinara. I wasn’t in mood for pasta, so I decided to make the classic Italian side dish, polenta.

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Mm, polenta. Have you ever tried it? Polenta is not for weeknight cooking. Classic polenta is made from humble cornmeal, and it takes a while for the cornmeal grains to swell up and cook properly to become tender, yielding that creamy finished texture, not unlike grits.

Polenta is remarkably simple, in both technique and number of ingredients. I used homemade stock for mine, but if you use store bough stock, please try and buy low sodium, as you’ll want to adjust the salt you use. Most recipes have you add the cornmeal to boiling water, a la quinoa or pasta, but not here! I think that contributes to the risk of lumpy polenta; no thank you! We want smooth and creamy: starting both cold and lots and lots of whisking will alleviate that risk.

Leftovers can be cut into squares or triangles and fried crisp in a pan with some oil; you’ll see the leftover polenta will thicken up considerably.

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Serving this under sliced Italian sausage and marinara sauce was a hit, and a delightful change from pasta. This homey, cozy side dish is perfect for short January days.

basic, perfect polenta.
adapted from New York Times Cooking. 

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ingredients
4-5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus 1 tablespoon (I have used an Italian cheese blend with mozzarella, fontina, romano with success).

directions
In a deep saucepan or saucier (2-3 quart), combine the stock, cornmeal, olive oil, salt and pepper over medium high heat. Whisk often (consistently, if not constantly), until the mixture comes to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Polenta mixture should still be slightly loose. Partially cover and cook for at least 45 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes or so. When polenta becomes too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon, adding the additional cup of stock if needed (I always add 5 cups in total). Polenta is done when it pulls away from the side of the pot, and individual grains are tender and creamy.

Turn off heat and gently mix 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into polenta until cheese has melted. Cover and let stand 5 minutes to thicken; stir and taste for salt before transferring to a serving bowl. Top polenta with about 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish.

Serves 4-6.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

spicy sweet potato latkes.

Hi there! Today we’re celebrating Hanukah here at PTL. For once I’m actually ahead of the game and posting this in ample time of the holiday. This year Hanukah falls on December 24th, and goes through the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. What a festive end to the year!

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The pinnacle food of Hanukah is the latke. If you’ve never had latkes, let me implore you to try them. They are incredibly simple to make, and mine are an easy twist on the classic. As latkes are cooked (pan fried, actually) in a whole mess of oil, I decided to up the nutrition profile slightly by using sweet potatoes. Now I could have very easily lessened the amount of oil here, but since Hanukah is about celebrating the miracle of the oil lasting eight days and nights (among other things!), we’re going full speed ahead here.

Because I like spicy with my sweet potatoes, I added in a healthy amount of hot sauce (about 1.5 teaspoons/20 dashes). It’s A LOT of potatoes, so these only ended up with a mild kick. Scale up and down to your preference.

It’s VERY important to not skip the salting and draining process of the shredded potatoes. We want crispy latkes, and removing excess moisture is paramount to that process. Once you’ve cooked the latkes, remove them to a paper-toweled plate to drain off any excess oil. Then place them in a warm oven (200 degrees) on a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Do not stack them — remember, crispness is the goal!

You can make these ahead, to reheat from refrigerated simply place them in a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes, turning once halfway through, checking to ensure they don’t burn. Serve.

Happy Hanukah!

spicy sweet potato latkes.
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ingredients
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
1 medium russet potato, peeled
5 scallions, thinly sliced
10-20 dashes hot sauce (use chile-garlic paste, Sriracha, Frank’s Red Hot, your favorite)
1 teaspoon sea salt + 1/2 teaspoon
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs, whisked
2/3 cup unbleached flour

directions

Shred the potatoes using a food processor fitted with the grating blade (alternatively, you can use the large hole side of a box grater for a real workout!). Add the shredded potatoes to a fine mesh strainer that it sitting a top a bowl. Sprinkle the potatoes with a teaspoon of sea salt and mix together. Let sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, use a wooden spoon to push the mixture down and to the sides of the strainer to push any moisture out. Less moisture will yield crispier latkes, which is what we’re going for.

In a large bowl, add the salted potatoes, scallions, hot sauce (to your preference, 10 dashes of Frank’s Red Hot was about 3/4 teaspoon), black pepper, sea salt and mix. Add in whisked eggs, and mix to combine, Finally, add in 2/3 cup flour, and mix gently to combine, ensuring no pockets of raw flour remain. With clean, damp hands, form into 2.5 inch patties (about 1/4-1/3 cup of mixture)

Heat about 1/2 inch of grapeseed or avocado oil over medium/medium high heat in a large, deep skillet. Fry the latkes in batches, cooking about 3 minutes per side, making sure that the oil isn’t too hot (above 350 degrees). If the oil is too hot, the latkes will burn before the middle is cooked.

Drain onto paper towels, and place into warmed oven until ready to serve. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

Makes about 18-20 latkes.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**