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.

IMG_3451

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.

IMG_3450

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.

IMG_3448

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.

IMG_3449

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* 

chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.

Do you ever get an idea in your head and it will. not. go. away. until you make it?? That is today’s recipe for me. A colleague brought in leftover stuffed peppers (mmmmmm) a few weeks ago for lunch, and an idea suddenly popped in my head: chicken parmesan stuffed peppers. Sounds delicious, right? Well, I thought so too, so I looked around on the internet and the few recipes I could find weren’t calling out to me, so I decided to create them. If I do say so myself, these are a winner.

IMG_3398

IMG_3396

Inside of frying the chicken a la chicken parm, I decided to impart that crispy crunchiness by topping the peppers with a whole wheat panko, cheese and parsley topping. Delicious, and a great way to cut down on calories. We are using whole wheat orzo pasta in the filling, but feel free to use regular orzo pasta. I also found these super cute teeny tiny little fresh mozzarella balls, but any small fresh mozzarella will work for this. Mine were about 1/2 inch big, but you could always buy a big ball of it, and cut it down. That would probably be more economical, but hey, I was all about convenience, and cuteness.

IMG_3397

IMG_3395

This recipe seems long, but it’s really just cooking each component, adding them together, and then assembling the peppers. Beautiful! My friend James and I devoured these the night I made them. The recipe makes five as written, and three of my peppers were on the smaller side. One big one was almost too much. As with many casserole type dishes, these get better the next day.

A portable, healthy way to get my chicken parmesan craving? yes, please!

chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.
a ‘PTL’ original recipe. 

ingredients
12-15 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached or roasted, shredded or cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
scant one cup whole wheat orzo, cooked
5 assorted bell peppers, tops cut off, seeded, tops reserved and diced (preferably red/orange/yellow)
1/2 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup fresh baby mozzarella balls
1 1/2 cups jarred marinana sauce, 1/2 cup reserved
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

topping:
1/3 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon each)
5 baby mozzarella balls (optional)
fresh basil leaves, to garnish (optional)

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oval 2 quart dish, add cut peppers, standing up to the dish. Cover with foil, and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes to slightly soften the peppers. Remove dish and let cool. Set aside.

To cook the chicken: Heat a deep skillet with one tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, cover and let cook for 20 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat, let cook for 3-5 minutes, and then shred or cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat a pot with boiling water and cook orzo to package directions for al dente. Remove, strain, and then add cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Make the panko topping: combine bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper. Toss together with a fork.

While orzo is cooking, heat a small skillet over medium high heat with remaining tablespoon of oil. Add diced onion, diced pepper tops, and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring often for 5-7 minutes, until slightly softened and lightly charred. Remove and add to mixing bowl. Add cooked, chopped chicken, marinara sauce, oregano, salt, pepper, basil and crushed red pepper is using. Lightly toss. Add baby mozzarella balls and lightly toss again.

Using a spoon, carefully fill each pepper with filling to the top of the pepper. Add a small spoonful of sauce to each top, and spoon the remaining sauce around the peppers in the casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, checking after 30 minutes to assess softening of peppers. Once peppers “give” a little (about 45 minutes), remove foil, add the panko topping, and top each pepper with remaining mozzarella ball. Turn the oven to the broil setting, and broil for 3-5 minutes, keeping an eye on them to ensure no burning.

Remove from the oven, and let sit for a few minutes. Serve, topped with ribbons of basil.

Serves 5.

**Please use all 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.

IMG_3318

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.

IMG_3317

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!

IMG_3319

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.

img_3273

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.

img_3274

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

IMG_3272.JPG

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.

img_3240

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!

img_3239

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** 

 

quick + easy creamy tomato soup.

As mentioned a plethora of times, I love soup. It’s especially enchanting during these fall and winter months, when the daylight is fleeting, the wind is whipping, and you’re shivering just going from your car to your front door. Soup is the answer. So is vodka, but that’s a story for another time.

img_2855

Growing up, I never ate creamy soups. We ate broth based soups, and although a variety of tomato soups were always on the menu, I didn’t have cream of tomato until I was at least 20. I remember seeing it on a menu at a fast casual restaurant, and being wary to order it. I remember thinking “will I like it? I don’t like milk or cream”. I did.

I had a hankering for soup recently, and I had some leftover half and half from a different recipe so I decided to make creamy tomato soup. Let me tell you, I used canned and jarred tomatoes to make this a quick recipe, and I’ve found my new obsession: passata.

img_2859

Pictured above, passata is essentially a puree of uncooked tomatoes, and I describe in more detail at the end of this post, including substitutions if you can’t find it.

This soup hit the spot for me, and because I used half and half in place of the cream (only 2/3 cup!), you can feel good about eating a great big bowl! Also? A grilled cheese accompaniment is not mandatory, but highly recommended. I love fontina on pumpernickel. Enjoy!

img_2857

creamy tomato soup.
adapted from food + wine magazine. 

img_2858

ingredients
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 onion, diced (about 1.5 cups)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3.5 cups fire roasted diced tomatoes (from 1 28 ounce can)
1.5 cups passata (uncooked tomato puree)*
1 cup vegetable broth
2/3 cup half and half
1 tablespoon coconut palm OR unrefined white sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
sea salt and black pepper

ingredients
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, melt one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Add the undrained tomatoes, passata, vegetable broth, sugar, crushed red pepper, oregano, celery seed, smoked paprika and season with about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, breaking up the tomatoes with the spoon/spatula. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer for 10 minutes.

Working in batches or using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. If using stand blender, transfer blended soup to a clean pot over low heat. Add half and half and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a starter.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

NOTE: Passata is an uncooked tomato puree that is strained to have the seeds and skins removed. It originated in Italy and common in Europe. It differs from the tomato sauce or puree that you commonly find in U.S. grocery stores as it is uncooked and typically has nothing added to it, thus having a very fresh and light flavor. It is typically found in your grocery store’s tomato aisle, with specialty products, or in the Organic section. It is usually in a tall glass carafe or a box.

If you cannot find it, don’t despair! You can simply use an equivalent amount of whole/diced tomatoes, or tomato puree or sauce, being aware that the tomato puree or sauce will be much sweeter, due to the amount of sugar that is typically found in these products. The brand of passata I use is pictured above, and is labeled as ‘strained tomatoes’.

brown rice + pumpkin “risotto”.

Oh, hi there! How are you? Sorry for my unexpected silence; life got in the way and I ended using my kitchen for incredibly uninspiring food: lots of egg white omelettes, toast, grilled chicken topped salads and copious amounts of hummus were consumed. In a nutshell: life has had me pretty exhausted. And it seems that fall has arrived while I’ve been quiet! Hello, chilled evenings and early mornings. Hello to the Harvest Moon and the incredibly vast, clear black sky. And hello to you, grey, dreary, rainy days. I’ve missed you, too. Yes, I know I’m probably the only one, but I love grey, rainy days. Rain is cleansing, evocative, romantic, even.  To usher this cool weather in, I have a super seasonal recipe that is a fun play on risotto, without the near constant stirring of hot broth into the rice: pumpkin risotto with sage. We’re using brown arborio rice to up the nutrition of this meatless main dish. The brand I use can be found here, and I can usually find it in my main grocery store.

img_2571

This risotto recipe was calling my name; although it’s a lengthy recipe, much of the time is inactive! You can just a pop a lid on the pot, set a timer, and go about your business for 35-40 minutes, and then come back to finish it off.

img_2570

Pumpkin and sage are quintessentially autumnal, and the former provides such a rich creaminess to the dish. I garnished the finished dish with some local, raw gruyere-like cheese that I picked up a festival a few weeks ago, but you can use any hard cheese that you like: pecorino, parmesan, you name it! You can also just leave it off for a dairy free and vegan friendly dish.

Enjoy friends; I loved this. The ideal cocktail for this dish is coming up next. 🙂

pumpkin + brown rice risotto.
adapted from healthy seasonal recipes. 

img_2569

ingredients
1.5 cups brown arborio rice
3 cups vegetable stock or broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 medium/medium-large sweet onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (I like an oaky Chardonnay, but any dry, crisp white will do)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea or Kosher salt
15 ounce can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2-3 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped, plus additional whole leaves for garnish
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup hard cheese, grated (optional)

directions
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and garlic. Saute the onion and garlic for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and fragrant.

Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes, until the rice becomes slightly toasted and translucent in spots on the grains of rice. Add the wine and let cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often until almost all of the wine has evaporated. Add in vegetable broth, nutmeg, salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring often. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 35-40 minutes.

Remove lid, stir and add in pumpkin, cinnamon, and sage leaves. Stirring often, increase heat to medium and let cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring often to let thicken and the flavors combine and to let the rice continue to soften. Once the rice is soft and everything is well combined, taste and add in additional salt and pepper if desired (I added more of both).

Divide amongst four bowls, garnish with cheese and whole sage leaves and serve immediately.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**