Monthly Archives: April 2010

Red Lentil Veggie Soup

Last week Earthfare, had a 20% off coupon for all bulk items, so I used this opportunity to buy a bunch of stuff I’ve never bought before.  Fun fun!  One of these was red lentils, which I planned to use in a soup.  I’ve been on a soup kick lately.  It’s just so easy to make and then separate into individual containers for lunch.  Plus my office is super cold all year long, so it’s never too warm for soup, no matter what the season.

So red lentil soup was born, with a bit of inspiration from 101 Cookbooks, my go-to for inspiration.  Being true to my cooking style, all of these ingredients are guestimates seeing how I don’t typically measure when I’m making stuff up and not baking.

1 cup dried red lentils

6 cups stock (I used leftovers which include 2 cups veggie and 4 cups beef)

1 package frozen vegetables (mine included corn, carrots, green beans, and peas)

1/2 mas grande white onion chopped

1 whole shallot chopped finely

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice

1 tsp. fresh thyme

1 tbsp. finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil

Saute onion and shallot in olive oil until softened and beginning to brown.  Meanwhile bring stock to a simmer.  Once onion and shallot are done, transfer to pot of stock.  Add the rest of the ingredients: lentils, veggies, herbs and seasonings.  Allow to simmer until rice and lentils are soft and soup has reached it’s desired consistency.  This took about 20-30 minutes for mine although I wasn’t timing it really.

I use the term “soup” loosely, because my soups always turn out super thick, more like a “stoup” as Rachel Ray would say.  I love them super thick.  I can eat most of my soups by scooping them up with a cracker because they are so wonderfully thick.

Eaten here in a orange plastic bowl, circa 1970 something from my grandmother’s house.  I borrowed this bowl back in college from my grandmother who would probably take a hit out on me if knew I had it.  She’s very protective of her plastic ware, which in the South we call “Tupperware”, no matter the brand.  At least, I think that’s a southern thing…kind of like how some people here call every carbonated drink “Coke” regardless of the actual brand or type of soda.  🙂

I topped it with a large dollop of plain yogurt and accompanied it with a herb salad mixed topped with avocado and a orange-lemon vinaigrette I made a week or so ago.  It’s basically equal parts orange juice and lemon juice (~1/8 cup), 1 tsp olive oil, and 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, which gives it a pretty peach colored hue. Also eaten were several Mary’s Gone Crackers, which I tried out for the first time this week and really like.  I bought the original flavor and their very crispy and nutty.

This soup is so yummy.  I have taken it to work for lunch for the past several days and always get questions about what I’m heating up in the microwave and comments that it smells delicious.

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Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to eat brie

…taking you back to 6th grade chorus with this title.

I haven’t posted any breakfast eats in a while, and I’m not sure why, because breakfast is my most favorite part of the day.  In fact, its the only reason I get out of bed some mornings.  Last week I strayed from my usual oatmeal or smoothie in a bowl, and tried some different things with some organic Bosc pears, courtesy of TJ’s.

I’ve also been dreaming of brie lately, but never while at the grocery store, which was also remedied on a recent trip to TJ’s, mecca of all cheap delicious healthy food.  Eating brie solo is an acquired taste, but everyone can appreciate brie if it is paired properly.  Brie’s best friend, in my opinion is honey.  For a not so short time period in grad school, I regularly ate a brie, honey, and green apple sandwich on a daily basis.  Here is where the pear comes in.

Instead of green apple, I sliced up a small Bosc pear and put it on a brie smeared whole wheat wrap, drizzled with honey

Then I folded it over and browned it in a cast iron pan.  Cut it in half and ate it with a dollop of plain yogurt.  See the honey oozing out the side?

Crisping the wrap is an absolute must if you try this.  It kind of seals all the ingredients together.  Nothing is quite like Brie + something a little sweet.  In this case, the pear and honey were an excellent compliment.  This is a really simple and quick breakfast or lunch and was a nice change from the usual.

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Another take on a homemade Lara bar

I’ve made these before and I liked them, but I wasn’t blown away.  For some reason this time, the stars aligned and the result was pure deliciousness.  Homemade Lara Bars are all over the healthy food blog community so if for some reason I have used the exact same recipe as someone else, it is purely by accident.

To make four of these round bars truffles, a la fudge baby shaped.  Insert into your food processor the following ingredients:

10 pitted dates

2 oz. salted cashews

1/4 cup organic finally shredded coconut

1/2 cap of vanilla – didn’t use actual tool of measurement, because that’s how I roll sometimes

2 level Tbsp. of cocoa

Process into mixture works itself into a ball.  Remove, separate into four equal-ish sections and roll into balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and store in fridge.

I didn’t measure the cups or grams of dates, because I wasn’t sure how many I wanted to use.  I started off using six dates and added all of the rest of the ingredients.  Processed them and then tasted, decided it needed more dates, and continued until I had added 10 dates, writing down the ingredient list every step of the way.

Man, these little guys were delicious.  I had one the next day for a mid afternoon snack, saved one for Brad, and then packed them as an after dinner snack on our surprise anniversary car trip to Savannah, Ga.  Well, it was a surprise for me anyway.  I have the sweetest guy!  Almost as sweet as my homemade Lara Chocolate/coconut date truffles.

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Finally split pea soup

I totally fell in love with split pea soup this winter and have been meaning to make it ever since my first can.  Trader Joe’s Organic Split Pea Soup, is the only kind I’ve ever had, but it is yummeeeee.  Plus the ingredient list is pretty basic, which isn’t typical of most canned soups.   The reason why I hadn’t made it thus far, is because I really had no idea where to get split peas or what they looked like.  I really thought they would be sold fresh, but that was obviously not the case.  You actually buy them dried, like beans.

While taking a leisurely stroll one afternoon (that actually turned into a six-mile hike to the Dilworth neighborhood and back), Brad and I stopped at Berry Brook Farms, which is actually not a farm at all but what looks a slat log house in the middle of urban Charlotte.  It is actually a pretty cool, dare I say granola, natural grocery/specialty store.  They also carry vitamins, supplements, and beauty products.  I have always wanted to go inside and have a look around, so I left Brad and the Rascal on the porch, sitting on their porch swing, and went inside.  When I found my way back to their dry good bins and saw the split peas, I knew homemade split pea soup was in my future.   Even though I’ve only ever had the green split peas, for some reason I decided on the yellow.

The recipe I made up based on what I had on hand and several recipes I perused is below.

1.2 lbs dry yellow split peas (rinsed)

7 cups vegetable stock

2 carrots roughly chopped

3 celery stalks roughly chopped

1 large clove garlic minced

1 large white onion diced roughly chopped (I actually had 2 halves of a medium and a really small one, leftovers from other cooking excursions, but you get the drift)

2 bay leaves

Salt and Pepper

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. grape seed oil

Saute carrots, onion, garlic, and celery in grape seed oil, until onion and garlic are starting to brown.  Meanwhile, bring stock to a boil.  Add split peas and lower heat to simmer.  Add vegetables and herbs.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes.  Stir every 10 minutes or so.    Transfer mixture to food processor (or use an immersion blender) and puree until smooth.

Serve with crackers (these are Kashi TLC) and a dollop of plain or Greek yogurt.

This soup was very thick, which I loved.  It got even thicker when I refrigerated it, so if you prefer a thinner soup, you might want to keep some extra vegetable stock on hand to thin it out when you reheat it.

I loved it and I won’t be going back to canned.  It got the fiance seal of approval too, so this will be a recurring meal.  I might even like it almost as my favorite  Ellie’s  nutty sweet potato soup, which is good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  🙂

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Capital Grille

Yesterday was beautiful in North Carolina.  And when Brad and I returned home yesterday evening after our six hour drive from his parents’ house on the coast, we 1- didn’t want to cook in the small amount of weekend time we had left and 2- wanted to eat outside.  After dropping our bags and Rascal off at the condo, we walked around uptown a bit trying to figure out where to go.  We strolled near Capital Grille, which has a really nice outside dining area.   I had never been to a Capital Grille, which is a chain, and Brad had never been to the Charlotte location.  We decided to give it a try and went inside to request a table al fresco.

Here is a slightly blurry shot of the menus (top and bottom).  The sun was beginning to set and it was somewhat shady between all of the skyscrapers and I didn’t want to use my flash and disturb the other diners.  We asked that the candle on our table be lit, but our waitress didn’t remember until we returned the check to her.

We decided to split everything, starting out with a bottle of wine.  I have been attempting to order Italian wines recently, in preparation for our honeymoon in Italy.  I feel like I know little to nothing about Italian wines and their names are always a lot more complicated and foreign to me, since I’m more familiar with French and Spanish wines.  By familiar, I mean I recognize the grapes and brands – I am no where near being a connoisseur.

I chose the 1872; the Santa Cristina.

It reminded me of a Chardonnay. We both had about a glass and a half.  We corked the rest and took it home.

This was the cork.  I snapped this a bit later in the evening.  The candle would have really helped here.

Our first course was a prosciutto wrapped mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes, described as, “Classic fresh mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto and lightly sautéed. Served with crostini, fresh basil and a lovely balsamic glaze.”  The tomatoes and crostini reminded be of bruschetta, which I love.  It’s so summery.

The bread basket: a light and airy cracker, onion bread, and a seeded roll.  I had a bite of each.  Okay, maybe two bites of the onion bread.

The salad we split, field greens, tomatoes, and fresh herbs, which is described as, “A tempting trio of baby lettuces is the perfect base for juice, vine-ripe grape tomatoes and your choice of one of our carefully blended house dressings.”

Now that I am reading the description again, the two words “your choice” stick out to me. I don’t remember being given a choice.  The salad was lovely just the same.

Last was the main course.  A perfect portion; I’m so glad we decided to split this.  Luckily for me, Brad was in the mood for seafood.  I am ALWAYS in the mood for seafood.  So, we got the swordfish.  The Grilled Swordfish with Lemon Shallot Relish is described as “exactly grilled to achieve the perfect texture and moistness.  Served with a delicious mix of fresh lemon, fennel, and herbs.”

I am laughing a bit to myself right now after re-reading the description.  When this came out, Brad and I wanted to know what the yellow “stuff” was on top of the fish, not remembering exactly what we had ordered.   Brad had suggested fennel and I threw that guess out to our waitress, who replied that it was yellow peppers that had been cooked in ginger.  It really did taste like ginger.  So much that the actual yellow substance was unidentifiable.  We really didn’t think it was yellow pepper, which is confirmed by their menu.  I think our waitress was just trying to be helpful; I don’t think she realized I was going check her on it.

To be honest, the Capital Grill is just okay.  The food is good, but I wouldn’t call it outstanding.  Brad said it just didn’t “wow” him like Blue did the first time we ate there, and he’s right.  The main course was probably my least favorite part of the meal.  What the description didn’t tell you is that the swordfish is served over corn, asparagus, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Those things just don’t “go” together in my mind.  They didn’t taste bad together, because they had all been cooked in the same herbs and sauce until they all pretty much tasted the same, except for the sun-dried tomatoes.  I didn’t hate it, but I would order something else if I ever returned to the Capital Grille.

However, you couldn’t beat the weather or the company. 🙂

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