Spicy Red Lentil Stew

Spicy Red Lentil Stew

Today, I really wanted to post something about cooperation. It’s been a rough day with some really rigid, frustrating personalities making life difficult just for the sake of making life difficult…

On the chance of sounding preach-y, I’m going to pass and just post another recipe.  [Insert cheesy comment about food and spices combining and working together to create something delicious.]

This stew is a great winter-warmer while we hold out for spring.  We were shoveling our driveway this weekend for what I hoped would be the last time (silly me!), and it felt really good to be outside.  Not only was it warmer than it has been, but the chickadees were happily singing, the goldfinches were flitting about the feeders, and even our lone purple finch gave a little song.  While it seems to be eons away under all that snow, spring really is right around the corner!

3 tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
2 tsp chili powder
1 dried red chili, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 lb dried red lentils, rinsed
1 tsp salt
5  cups vegetable broth
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, sliced
homemade yogurt (optional)

1) Heat the coconut oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, celery, and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.
2) Add the chili powder, cumin, and dried red chili and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.  Add the lentils and broth.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft, about 15 – 20 minutes.
3) Stir in the salt, juice of 1/2 the lime, and 1/2 the chopped cilantro.
4) Keeping it vegan?  Garnish with remaining cilantro and serve!  Looking for a little more? Garnish with remaining cilantro, a spoonful of yogurt, and serve!  (A spoonful of sour cream instead of  yogurt would probably also be delicious!)

I'm a Gull.
Seriously. Spring is coming…

Any Greens Pie – Greens Mean Spring!

greens pieThis is vegetarian comfort food at it’s best.  A hearty, warm dinner pie stuffed full of greens on a cold winter evening, next to the fire, with a glass of red wine… But it’s almost spring! And we are dreaming of the days when fresh greens will return to the garden. Until then, however, kale from the farmer’s market will keep us warm and looking forward to longer days full of more and more sunshine.

This pie would be delicious with any type of greens: kale, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, spinach – your choice, mix and match.  We had a large amount of chard and some phyllo dough, which inspired this recipe.  If you don’t like working with phyllo dough, you can omit it.  The recipe puffs nicely right in the dish with the biscuit-like batter.  Or you could also use a regular pie crust as an easy substitute.

2 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large bunch greens, roughly chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
3 raw eggs
1 cup homemade yogurt
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp stone-ground Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
10-12 sheets phyllo dough
3-4 tbsp melted butter

1) Preheat the oven to 375F.  Heat the butter over medium heat until melted.  Add the onion and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and the greens.  Cook until the greens are rather tender, but not too wilted.  Remove from heat and set aside.
2) Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, raw eggs then add the flour and baking powder.  Stir in the salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and add fresh ground black pepper to taste.  Set aside.
3) Lightly grease a baking dish (9 x 12) with butter or oil.  Lay down a piece of phyllo dough and brush with butter.  Continue adding layers in this matter until 5-6 sheets are on the bottom layer.  (Life Hack: Use spray butter or spray oil… I don’t do this, but it does save time and fuss!)
4) Combine the batter and the kale mixture, gently stir in the hard-boiled eggs.  Pour into the baking dish on top of the layers of phyllo dough.  Begin adding top layers of phyllo dough in the same manner, buttering each sheet after adding, until there are 5-6 sheets covering the top.
5) Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown.

Serve with an arugula or sprout salad. Makes plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week!

Flexibility, Strength, and Gratitude

One of the many benefits to practicing yoga is an increase in physical strength and flexibility.  For me, these benefits extend far beyond the mat and teach me to have more strength (resilience) and flexibility (patience) in my personal life.  Often, this is the best feeling!  I feel good when I practice, I feel good after I practice, and I look forward to the next time I get to practice. I’m able to “go with the flow” and stay “on top of my game.”  I feel positive and fresh, and I feel like I’ve got it all together…

But sometimes that’s not the case.  Sometimes stress creeps into my life and the opposite is true.  I start to lose flexibility and strength in my personal life, and that extends back onto the yoga mat.  The feedback loop is reversed, and it all starts to fall apart.  Typically, I’m not even aware of it.  I start to become impatient, I’m unable to take constructive criticism, and I have trouble accepting that someone else’s idea might just be better than my own.  The worst is when I begin to struggle to motivate myself to get onto my yoga mat.

Then something clicks.

On Friday, I realized that I was really tight in the hips and shoulders and I was really struggling in my backward bends.  I wasn’t really happy about my practice on Friday, and it sort of put me in a funk.  Saturday was Valentine’s Day, and we had the most incredible day.  We went for a hike to a frozen waterfall, went to our favorite breakfast spot, played in the snow with the dogs, and spent the rest of the day planting seeds for the garden. We had a blast! Yet something was still a little off.  I was quick to correct Paul when he was wrong, I was grumpy about shoveling the driveway, and I didn’t really want to make dinner (that’s rare!).

Then we went to the Nelson Odeon, our new favorite music spot, for a delightful show.  Stephane Wrembel and his band made some of the most beautiful music that I’ve heard in a long time.  Not to mention that his personality was something worth visiting.  Watching and listening made me realize that I was really starting to slip and that something needed to change.  Namely: my attitude.  I really do believe in the power of positive thinking, and when a poor attitude starts to creep into your life, it’s often difficult to both recognize and change.  Sometimes life is rough and bad things happen to good people.  And sometimes, looking forward to each new day and the possibilities ahead can help bridge the gap between the good times and the bad.

Honestly, what do I really have to be grumpy about?  I live in a beautiful place, I have the most incredible friends, I have a wonderful, supporting, loving family, I have an amazing job, and I get to share it all with Paul – the most remarkable person that I’ve ever met.  I have absolutely nothing to complain about.  And sometimes it’s all about changing your perspective.

One time I read the quote, “Live simply, expect little, give much.”  These words really resonated with me, and that’s how I aspire to live each day.  So thank you, Stephane Wrembel, for the little reminder of how wondrous life can be.

Vegetable Noodle Bowls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Spicy Peanut Sauce

This might be the best peanut sauce that I’ve ever made.

If you ever have the pleasure of driving through western Massachusetts, I suggest you stop at the most delightful Vietnamese restaurant on the planet, Pho Saigon.  They might be the friendliest and kindest people that I have ever met.  On the rare occasion that I get to stop in for a treat of vegetarian summer rolls, the owner still remembers my name and I haven’t lived there for nearly 10 years!!  I have been attempting to recreate their dreamy peanut sauce to no avail, but this time I hit one that might just be a winner.

Peanut Sauce
1 clove garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp lime juice
1 can coconut milk
1 dried red chili
1/4 tsp salt

Noodle Bowls
1 package vermicelli noodles
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 small head broccoli, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil (or any other cooking oil)
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
2 tbsp chopped peanuts (optional)

1) Place all peanut sauce ingredients into food processor.  Puree until garlic and ginger are completely incorporated.  Place mixture into small saucepan on very low heat to warm, stirring occasionally.
2) Boil water in another small saucepan.  Place noodles into boiling water and set aside.
3) Add coconut oil to large skillet or stockpot.  Heat on medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add remaining vegetables.  Cook until crisp-tender (cook longer if you prefer softer vegetables).
4) Drain noodles and place a layer on the bottom of a bowl.  Add a layer of hot vegetables.  Cover noodles and vegetables with 1/4 cup warm peanut sauce.  Garnish noodle bowls with chopped cilantro and peanuts!

This dinner would be delicious with a block of tofu, but I didn’t have any on hand!  Still, I’m already dreaming of the next time I get to eat that peanut sauce…. And that’s what leftovers are for!

Indian Night – Paalak Paneer

Paalak PaneerWhen Paul and I were in India two years ago, we were lucky enough to spend some time in the kitchen of our kind and wonderful host in Bharatpur.  He insisted that cooking Indian food was easy and taught us a few simple dishes that we could make at home.  We love cooking Indian food, and it really is easy!  If you’re interested in learning to make Indian recipes, it’s 100% worth a trip to the Indian market to beef up your spice rack.

This recipe was adapted from my favorite Indian cookbook,  Nita Mehta’s Paneer Recipes.

2 bundles of spinach, rinsed
3-4 tbsp ghee, oil, or butter
1 brown cardamom pod, crushed
3-4 cloves, crushed
5-7 peppercorns, crushed
3 onions, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
1 heaping tbsp fenugreek leaves
1 tsp garam masala
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp amchoor powder
1 tsp salt
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 recipe of homemade paneer, cubed
1 cup milk

1) Heat oil on medium heat in large skillet or stock pot.  Add brown cardamom, cloves, and peppercorns.  Cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add chopped onions and saute until soft and slightly browned.  Add ginger and garlic. Saute for 1 minute.  Add fenugreek leaves, garam masala, paprika, amchoor powder, and salt.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add chopped tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes until soft.  Add spinach and cook for 10-15 minutes.
2) Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes.  Add the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend with 1/2 cup water until smooth. Return the mixture to the skillet.
3) Add 1 cup milk and the paneer pieces and heat until bubbling.

We typically serve this the traditional way with homemade chapatis or naan (coming soon!) but rice is always a really great option.

Agra Fort. Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. 2012.
Agra Fort. Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. 2012.

Homemade Yogurt, Cheese, and Butter: Part III – Yogurt

Makin' YogurtJust like butter, once I realized that I could make my own yogurt, I haven’t gone back to store bought.  While it takes about 36 hours for the final product to be ready, most of that time is unattended.  And this yogurt is completely worth the wait!

My biggest complaint when I first started was all of the waste that I felt like I was creating by purchasing milk in cardboard or plastic containers. We now use Byrne Dairy milk when making our yogurt because we can purchase it in glass jars and return it for a refill.  This not only makes us feel better about the waste, but Byrne Dairy’s average farm is only 35 miles from it’s plants, meaning that the milk is from local farmers (one of the farms is right down the street from us!).  Lastly, their farmers use no growth hormones on their cattle, meaning that we’re getting a healthier product overall.

When Paul and I were in Iceland two years ago, we fell in love with skyr.  While it’s impossible for us to get the same thickness of Icelandic skyr with whole milk, we used Siggi’s plain skyr as a starter to get that slightly sour dairy flavor.  Now we just use our own yogurt over and over again when making fresh batches!

small cooler
large pot
4 one-quart mason jars

1/2 gallon whole, 2%, 1% or skim milk (your choice!)
1 cup yogurt of your liking (Siggi’s is my favorite, but you can use any yogurt containing live active cultures)

1) Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into large pot.  Begin warming on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Rest thermometer on the edge of the pot.
2) As the temperature rises to about 150F, the milk will start to become frothy.  This is good, but now is when you’re going to want to keep a better eye on the temperature.  Stir more frequently.
3) When the temperature reaches 180F, remove from heat and let cool to 100F.  Once the temperature reaches 100F, stir in 1 cup yogurt.
4) Divide the milk/yogurt mixture evenly among the 4 mason jars.  Place each mason jar into the cooler.  Set the lids on top of the mason jars but do not screw them down tight.
5) Add enough hot tap water to the cooler to reach the neck of the mason jars.  Allow the yogurt to ferment for 24-hours, tighten the lids, then place the jars of yogurt into your refrigerator!  Voila!  Fresh yogurt!

I like to add a spoonful of homemade raspberry jam, some fresh fruit (usually banana), and some granola to my yogurt for a delicious and healthy breakfast.  Don’t forget to save some yogurt for your next batch!


Jökulsárlón, Iceland
Jökulsárlón, Iceland