Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jane Brody's Lentil Potato Stew

Our weather has been unseasonably cold lately, and I find myself craving nice, thick stews to warm myself up. For the past several years, this has been one of my favorite stews. It is thick and hearty and very healthy. We love Indian food, and the way this stew is spiced is very similar, so I either serve it over rice or with Trader Joe's tandoori naan.

Be certain to use brown lentils. The tiny French green lentils are too small (for me, anyway, the mouth-feel is too similar to "grains") and the red lentils fall apart and turn to mush. Brown lentils seem to be "sturdier". I also changed one part of the original recipe to use vegetable broth (the low-sodium variety) instead of water because it tastes better.

And add a dollop of nonfat plain yogurt on top (I would have liked to use minced fresh cilantro, too, but none was to be had).

Okay, now I have to admit that I make a double recipe just for the two of us, we enjoy it so much. There's nothing better for a quick lunch (I make the rice in advance, too) and the stew will keep for several days in the refrigerator, only becoming better as the flavors meld.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lentil & Potato Stew

Recipe By : Jane Brody
Servings : 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 cup lentils -- brown lentils, not red or the small green French type
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound white potato
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
14 ounces canned diced tomato -- undrained
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon sugar

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the lentils, broth, and bay leaf. Bring the ingredients to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-30 minutes (depending on how old the lentils are) until they are just tender. Remove from heat, take out and discard the bay leaf, and set aside but do not drain the broth.

In a Dutch oven or large nonstick saucepan, heat the oil briefly and add the potatoes. Cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes.

Add the chopped onion and turmeric and continue to cook for an additional 4 minutes, stirring often. Add the remaining ingredients (cumin through sugar). Season with ground black pepper to taste .Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add more water if stew seems to be too dry.

Serve with dollops of nonfat plain yogurt, if desired.

"Good Food Gourmet"
"8 cups"

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Per serving: 235 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat; (10% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 539mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Serve over steamed basmati rice or with naan

Brody also points out that you can make a reasonable facsimile of garam masala by combining equal amounts of cardamon, cumin, cinnamon, coriander with smaller amounts of ground cloves and black pepper. I use Penzey's garam masala.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Bell peppers were on sale at the grocery store last week and I over-bought. I really do try not to so this, but sometimes I become giddy and common sense just flies out of my head. :)

A few were getting soft, so I took this opportunity to make peperonata. This decidedly Italian dish consists of sautéed bell pepper and onion, mixed with chopped tomato, and at the end, seasoned with red wine vinegar to add a bit of piquancy. It is very good as a side with roasted chicken, but delicious when mixed with pasta.

This is very quick to put together, the time is taken up with simmering the vegetables for the flavors to mingle. I use fresh tomatoes when I make this in late summer, but this time I went with the canned diced variety (which tastes so much better than those ones in the grocery stores now that “tomato season” is over). I served this over mini-rigatoni (ran out of the whole wheat penne I had planned to use) with a sprinkling of grated Asiago.

I apologize for the poor photo quality. At one point, I set my camera on "landscape" mode to take some outdoor photos, and never changed it back until I downloaded and saw how oddly the interior photos turned out.

* Exported from MasterCook *


Recipe By : Vcci
Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1 teaspoon olive oil
9 ounces bell pepper -- a mix of colors looks best; cut into 1/4" wide strips
3 ounces sweet onion -- halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4" strips
1 small garlic clove -- minced
14 ounces canned diced tomato -- undrained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh parsley -- minced

In a medium sized nonstick skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Saute the peppers for 3 minutes, then add the onions and sauté for another 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic cook for one more minute.

Pour the undrained diced tomatoes in, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste, and the red wine vinegar. Simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.

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Per serving: 109 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat; (18% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 562mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Potato Tacos

A few weeks ago, Jack, Spooky, and I visited my family for a long weekend.

The fun never stopped. Friday was Halloween so Mom, Jack, Dad, and I went to the elementary school to watch the costume parade. My twin nieces were dressed as a witch and a vampire; we had a good time looking at all of the costumes displayed from kindergartners through fifth-graders. Afterward, we drove to a farm to buy potatoes. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much—they were potatoes.

We drove for a long while without passing another vehicle, and then (literally at the “end of the road”) turned into a rutted, dirt driveway. For some reason, my Dad knows where all of the obscure farms are located. He went to the back door, knocked, and an old woman came out, wrapping a cardigan around her. She walked across a tractor path and unlocked a door to a large storage shed. We went inside and the woman switched on a trouble-light which was hanging from a rafter.

Potatoes. More than I had ever seen in my life. Probably more than I had ever eaten cumulatively in my life! The ceiling was about 10’ high, the potatoes were piled up close to it in places, and there was an approximately 8' diameter cleared area beside the door to stand in. This photo was taken on the side where they were bagging the potatoes, so they're not piled as high.

Several huge bags were in front of the potato mountain, each filled. Dad bought one 60-pound bag for $12 and Jack lugged it to the car. I asked the woman if they lived on these potatoes all winter. “Oh no,” she replied, “all that will be left by Thanksgiving are what we keep to eat through next year.” Good heavens. Who is buying all of these?

As we could not resist, before we left, Jack and I petted several cats and kittens that were running about.

Now, the way that the potatoes were bought was interesting but, still, I wasn’t prepared for such a different taste. I’m not a big fan of white potatoes, but these were unlike any I have had before. The texture was so smooth and creamy, the potato flavor pronounced, yet subtle. I can’t describe it. But we had mashed potatoes with dinner that evening and they were wonderful!

I have to mention the size of these potatoes. The cost of $12 for 60 pounds were for the bag of ungraded ones, and they certainly were of varying size. The largest ones weighed up to 14 ounces each!

Mom gave me a big bag to take home, and we have had white potatoes more in the past few weeks than we have had all year.

One way that we enjoy potatoes is in, ready for this? Potato tacos. They taste a lot better than they sound! Cubes of boiled potato are browned in a skillet with onions, chunks of zucchini, and roasted poblano pepper; then a green tomatillo sauce is poured over all and the mixture is simmered and stirred until the flavors are mingled and the sauce has darkened. Served in steamed corn tortillas with cheese, these are simple and delicious. And uses a lot of potatoes!

I have been making these tacos for years and years, but only this time decided to streamline the prep a bit by using a jar of Trader Joe’s salsa verde instead making my own by cooking and pureeing tomatillos with onion, garlic, and jalapenos. This certainly was easier, and I didn’t notice a huge difference in taste.

In addition to tasting better than they sound, potato tacos taste better that they look in this photo!

I was too anxious to eat and had the camera on a wrong setting for the light conditions...

* Exported from MasterCook *

Potato Tacos

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings: 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 1/2 pounds white potatoes -- scrubbed, unpeeled, halved if large
2 cups onion -- sliced vertically
12 ounces zucchini -- 3/4" dice
4 large poblano peppers -- roasted, peeled, diced 1/2"
1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
24 ounces Trader Joe's salsa verde
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth -- boiling
6 ounces reduced fat cheddar cheese -- shredded
24 whole corn tortillas -- warmed

Place the potatoes in a saucepan, add about 3" of water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to medium, keep covered, and cook just until tender. Drain, cool, then cut into 3/4" dice.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, drizzle in a teaspoon of canola oil, turn the heat up a bit, and when hot add the salsa (it will sizzle and splatter-- beware!). Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the broth and continue to cook over a medium-high flame for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened a bit. Remove from heat and cool.

NOTE: The previous 2 steps can be done ahead of time and kept a room temp for a couple of hours, or refrigerated longer.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and fry for about 5 minutes or until they start to brown a little, stir often to prevent sticking. Add the onions and continue to fry for 3 minutes, then add the zucchini and fry, stirring often, for 5 more minutes. Add the chopped poblanos, turn the heat to medium, and stir in the sauce. Cook, stirring gently from the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking, for about 10 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and darkened. Remove to a covered serving dish.

Warm corn tortillas and place on table along with the potatoes and shredded cheese. Spoon potato mixture into the individual tortillas, sprinkle with cheese, and fold.

If desired, hot sauce may be added before folding the tortillas over, but check the hotness of the poblanos first!

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Per serving: 435 Calories (kcal); 6g Total Fat (2g Saturated); (11% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 76g Carbohydrate; 6mg Cholesterol; 1490mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 4 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

I love my big ol' hard-anodized saute pan, but if you are using nonstick skillets and pans, increase the oil in the recipe or add a coating of cooking spray.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

I love gingerbread in the fall and winter. I love chocolate all year long. So, when I saw a recipe for a chocolate gingerbread cake in my mega-file of recipes, I decided to make it for company this past weekend.

The source is unknown as it was torn out of a magazine, but it looks like a recipe developed by McCormick spices (as they are mentioned by brand). Anyway, as I often do, I altered the recipe to lower the fat content and made it my own.

Because the recipe calls for a cake mix, it’s rather simple to get together. Instant pudding mix is also required, so I bought a cake mix that did not already have pudding in it (and it was difficult to find a brand that did not have a banner across the front of the box proclaiming “Pudding In The Mix!!!”).

Unfortunately I did not have any canned pears on hand. I use pureed pears a lot as a fat substitute with success. Simply drain a can of pears, in their juices not in syrup, and puree until smooth. A 14- or 15-ounce can will produce 2/3 to ¾ cup of puree, and it can be frozen for later use. Instead, for this recipe, I used a half of a fresh, ripe pear (pureed) to replace some of the oil.

The resulting cake was delicious. I overbaked it a little, because somehow the slip of paper which I keep in my pan which warns “dark pans bake faster!”, was missing and I forget this every darn time (hence, the paper warning). Still, it was a moist cake, neither overpowering gingerbread nor chocolate flavor, but a nice mingling of the two. Whipped topping is traditional for gingerbread, so I used that, but a white chocolate drizzle would also be nice. Next time! :)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 14

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup pureed pears

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 package Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Dark Chocolate

Fudge Cake Mix -- or any brand without pudding added

1 package Jello Instant Pudding Mix, Chocolate Fudge -- (3.9 ounce size)

Spray a 10-cup bundt pan with cooking oil spray. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350F.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs and egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Add the ingredients sour cream through molasses and beat for 1 minute. Add water and spices and blend into the mixture.

Pour the cake mix, then the pudding mix, into the wet ingredients. Beat at low speed for 1 minute to incorporate ingredients, scraping the bowl frequently, then turn the speed up to medium for 2 minutes (again, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently).

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted between the center and side of the pan comes out with only a couple of crumbs attached.

Cool cake on rack for 15 minutes. Loosen cake from center and edges, tap gently once or twice on a hard surface, then invert onto a cooking rack sprayed with cooking spray. Allow to cool completely.

Slice and serve with whipped topping.

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Per serving: 265 Calories (kcal); 8g Total Fat (2g Saturated); (26% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 27mg Cholesterol; 448mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Musing... no recipe... :)

It is dusk on a mid-November afternoon. Snow flurries are falling gently outside as the daylights fades and I have just turned on the gas fireplace here in the living room because I feel chilly. I made a mug of hot chocolate, which is on the table beside me. Also on the table is a wreath of bittersweet that I made a few days ago and, in its center, an apple cider-spiced candle which is set inside an antique glass sugar bowl. I have lit the candle and the scent of apples and spices are mingling with the chocolate.

There is only one thing which could make this scene perfect, and I dig out the case of holiday cd’s to find it. A reissue of George Winston’s December. I would normally wait until December to listen to it, but this tableau is too perfect, too wanting of appropriate music.

I bought December in 1985 or 1986 and, until 2 years ago, listened to it in cassette form. Last year, I sprung for the 20th anniversary edition and it did not disappoint. Why I had waited so long to purchase this recording in a media which did not hiss or pop, I don’t know.

I sit. Outside it is now dark, inside gorgeous seasonal piano music fills the warm, scented room.

*huge, completely contented sigh*

I want to write. I need to write. There are a stack of scribbled recipes beside me, food photos in the camera which need to be downloaded. But I cannot do it. I must listen to the music, watch the candle flame dance, and enjoy my Sunday late afternoon…

Tomorrow. I will post tomorrow. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Last week I bought a 3-pack of canned pumpkin at Sam’s (the big cans) because we go a little pumpkin-crazy at this time of year. I don’t know why, since Jack and I enjoy it so much, I don’t use pumpkin more often. This time of year is appropriate, I guess, so we have indulged in pumpkin pancakes, waffles, muffins, cakes, brownies, breads, etc. And I bought a pie pumpkin to make a pumpkin curry with in the near future.

Sunday is definitely a baking day here since our usual Sunday evening dinner is pizza and I don’t like to heat the oven to do one 10-minute item. I found a pumpkin muffin recipe in a recent issue of Canadian Living and used that recipe as a base for adapting it to a quick bread. For a first effort it turned out incredibly well. A bit over-baked, but that will be adjusted the next time. Anyway, the bread had a nice, subtle pumpkin/spice flavor, it was moist, and who doesn’t love chocolate chips in pumpkin bread?!?! Each slice has only 6g total fat (1g saturated) and 2g fiber, which throws it into my classification of a “healthy snack”! :)

This turned out so nicely that I am going to make that muffin recipe from Canadian Living, with only minor changes, soon.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings : 28

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts -- toasted

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spray two 8" x 4" loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour through the salt and set aside.

In a medium bowl, use a whisk to beat the eggs and egg whites until fluffy; add the canola oil through vanilla extract and whisk until combined.

Make a "well" in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix lightly until almost combined, then add the chocolate chips and walnuts. Continue to mix gently until combined.

Divide mixture between the loaf pans and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean of crumbs.

Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then loosen the sides from the pan, tap gently on a solid surface a couple of times. Turn loaves out onto the rack to cool for at least an hour before slicing.

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Per serving: 153 Calories (kcal); 6g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (31% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 13mg Cholesterol; 193mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrate

*Toast walnuts after the oven preheats (just be certain that they are at least room-temperature before adding to the batter). In fact, toast a whole bunch of them, cool, and freeze in a plastic freezer bag for (easy) future use!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Trader Joe's Punjab Spinach Sauce (to the rescue!)

I haven’t been around for a while, and can place the blame directly on our house and its never-ending need of maintenance. Again, since I mentioned this earlier in October when this fall-fix-up blitz began, if anyone out there has some romantic notion about restoring an old house, please talk to me first! Especially if you are in your mid-20’s and are under the impression that both your youth and energy are of endless supply. I was that person, but am much wiser now…

Our area was blessed with five consecutive days of unseasonably warm weather. Near 70 degrees in early November is unusual, and we took full advantage of it. Although our house is brick, the trim is wood and, no matter what brand/type of paint I buy, needs to be repainted every few years. However, with all of the painting I have done in these almost-25 years here I simply never get around to the front porch. This is not the main entrance to our house; it doesn’t even have a path or sidewalk access, so it has been ignored while I was kept busy with the windows and other parts of the house. The front porch is 2 story’s in height, with fancy spindles on both levels, as well as recessed panels and sidelights. There were over 140 years’ worth of paint accumulated, some had fallen off to the bare wood and the rest was cracked. The job was just so overwhelming that we put it off every year, and every fall wished that we hadn’t. This year was different. We just did it.

We completed the first level 2 weeks ago and, this past Monday morning I saw the weather forecast and suggested that we see if we could finish the second level. Some of the work had been done last year, and protected with plastic which recently tore and had to be removed.

This was taken on Thursday (sorry, our politics are showing!).
Yes, Jack is standing on a ladder with only one side supported.
He insisted that it was the only way he could get the angle which he needed to scrape paint from one area, and he since didn’t fall off and break a leg, I guess that it worked.

All week we scraped and burnt off the remaining paint layers, repaired cracked windowpanes and missing pieces, caulked the numerous areas where pieces has “moved” apart, sanded, primed, and added a layer of topcoat. Even though the spindles on this level are rotting and need to be replaced, it still looks beautiful! We do need another top-coat, but that can be done in the spring. And we finished with two hours to spare.

This has been a brutal week, though. We both have bruised, scraped, sore hands and many aches and pains as well. A cold front arrived last night (thankfully!) and brought high winds and rain. I had cleaned the kitchen after dinner then joined Jack in the living room where a book held my attention of a whole 15 minutes before I fell asleep until 11pm. We went to bed and, to illustrate how wiped out we were, Jack was awakened by the storm (because he was so achy that he wasn’t sleeping well) and I slept through it (because I was exhausted). Normally I am the light sleeper and he is definitely not.

The outdoor work is over for this year, yahoo!

Lunches this week became very quick meals. We didn’t want to spend too much time inside, since we had to quit working at 5 since the daylight hours are shorter now. A few times I was able to make extra for dinner the night before and recycle those meals, but we did have one outstanding lunch which took only 20 minutes and really hit the spot.

I have mentioned my love of Trader Joe’s Indian simmer sauces in previous posts and I shall reiterate that again here. A jar of TJ’s Punjab Spinach Simmer Sauce, a can of chickpeas, some veggies, and J's tandoori naan—a great meal in about 25 minutes, tops.

Here is what I did:

(If you want to serve rice instead of naan, start it first)

Prepare 1 cup cauliflower florets and ¾ cup diagonally sliced carrots

Bring ½ cup water to a boil in a large nonstick sauté pan and add the cauliflower and carrots. Cover and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes while you prepare:
1 cup diced onion and ¾ cup diced green pepper

Add to the pan and cook for 2 more minutes until cauliflower is almost tender.

(At this point, I started to preheat my toaster oven to 425F* for the naan.)

Add the spinach sauce and another ½ to ¾ cup of water (the directions on the jar call for a cup of water in addition to the sauce, but you will have some water still in the pan from steaming the veggies; make your own decision here). Add one 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (this is about 9 ounces of cooked chickpeas).

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

(About 3 minutes* before serving, heat the naan, if using.)

Serve with a large dollop of nonfat plain yogurt.

A sprinkling of chopped cilantro would have been good, but my plants froze last week...

The beauty of this kind of recipe is that almost any vegetable can be added (green beans, red bell pepper, peas, broccoli, etc.) and canned kidney beans or cooked lentils can be subbed for the chickpeas.

I steam the vegetables instead of sautéing because that eliminates any additional oil, and the cooking water is then used in the sauce so that more nutrients are retained.

*- About the naan-- I have found that, even though the naan instructions call for a 400F oven and about 2 minutes of baking time, my toaster oven needs a lightly higher temperature and a longer cooking time than my “regular” oven or the grill (which remains my favorite way to heat this particular bread).

Now, especially if it is served with rice, this could probably make at least 3, or possibly 4, servings. We ate it all. We were hungry!!!

I should be posting more regularly now that the outdoor fix-up blitz is over. :)