red lentil daal

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You know that whole “Meatless Monday” thing that’s been all the rage?  Well, we don’t do that in our house.

I’m all for the limited-meat movement, but FH has other things in mind when he thinks of dinner.  He’s more of a steak-and-potatoes or chicken-and-pasta kinda guy… So when I mentioned the idea of “maybe having one meatless meal a week” to him he was not excited about the idea.  He did eventually agree with one stipulation: “No tofu, OK?”

Ok. No tofu. Easy enough.

So when thinking of tofu-free vegetarian dishes with lots of flavor, Indian cuisine naturally came to mind.  I happened across this easy recipe for red lentil daal and thought it would be the perfect recipe to ease FH into the world of meat-free meals.

That being said, when I made this for our first official “meatless” meal, he still wanted to know where the meat was…

“Is there meat?” 

Me: “There isn’t any meat, it’s lentils”

He stared at me suspiciously, “But, where’s the meat?” 

I tried explaining that he already agreed to having one meatless meal and that lentils are super good for you.  I even tried to explain that we didn’t need meat because lentils are naturally high in protein and they’re better than meat because they have almost no fat, but in the end what won him over was…

“Um… I got you garlic naan?”

“OOH I LIKE NAAN”

Whew. Crisis averted.

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Three bowls later he wasn’t asking about the meat anymore.  So, all things considered, I would call this a success.

I’m sure you could halve the recipe (it makes a whopping 11 cups!) but I just put all of our leftovers in plastic baggies and froze them for future dinners that would require zero effort.  Zero is my favorite amount of effort to put into dinner when I get home from work.

In our two-person household I think I ended up with one freshly-cooked dinner for the night plus 4 quart-sized bags of leftover zero-effort dinners, for those of us who are into math this means I got a total of 5 2-person dinners from 45 minutes of work.

Next time I think I will start with only half of the coconut milk, since I feel like it muted the flavors a bit more than I’d have liked (which was fixable by kicking up the seasoning a bit after).  I also added lime juice and cilantro to brighten the flavor and served the cayenne on the side, since I tend to like things significantly spicier than FH.

red lentil daal

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 11 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dry red lentils
  • 1 32-oz container unsalted chicken stock*
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped; divided
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk*
  • 2 limes, 1 juiced and 1 sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a dutch oven combine lentils, half of the chopped onion, tomatoes, cayenne, ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Add chicken stock and water and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook uncovered until lentils become tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to coat the bottom of the pan and then add cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Cover pan with foil or lid and cook a few minutes until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the chopped onion and stir, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking until onions are translucent. Add garilc and stir, continue to cook until onions are just starting to brown.
  3. Add onion mixture to lentils and stir in coconut milk, cilantro, and half of lime juice. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 5 minutes before serving, taste and adjust seasonings adding more salt, lime, or coconut milk as preferred. Serve on top of basmati rice or alongside naan.

Notes

* To make vegetarian, replace 32 oz of chicken stock with 4 cups of vegetable stock or water.

* I felt like the coconut milk muted the flavors a bit more than I'd have liked. I recommend starting by adding half of the coconut milk and simmering for 5 minutes, then tasting and adding more if desired.

* The lime juice and cilantro are optional, but recommended as they brightened up the flavor of the dish wonderfully.

* Serve with extra cayenne and slices of lime on the side to adjust taste to your preference.

http://wee-eats.com/2014/01/20/red-lentil-daal/

daal-DSC_0783 pin Recipe adapted from Food52

 

savory beef empanadas

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When we make Mexican food at our house, it’s usually tacos or fajitas.  Something fast and easy.  What I have failed to realize all this time, is that with a little bit of preparation, empanadas can be that fast and easy dinner.

You see, I’ve been working a little bit of a later shift lately, and so I’ve been looking for things that are not only quick and easy dinners, but that the BF can easily prepare as well.  These fit the bill perfectly.  With just about 30 minutes of work over the weekend, I can have 10 empanadas in the freezer waiting to be devoured.

This weekend, we devoured them as a midday snack.

To make the recipe even easier, I found frozen empanada dough in our grocer’s freezer.  Next to these curious creatures:

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Have you ever seen these?  I’d been eyeing these little guys for awhile, I have to admit that the idea of not wasting money by constantly buying fresh herbs “just in case” I need them is very appealing to me.

I try to keep fresh herbs around, in the fridge or on the windowsill, but I swear that 9 times out of 10 by the time I go to use them they are already wilted and dead (I’ve got parsley on the windowsill now, wilting away as we speak!).

All that money can really add up, so the thought of always having fresh herbs within an arm’s reach sounds like something out of a dream.

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My first thought when I popped out my cube of garlic, “What’s that funny smell?”  Am I the only person who smells all of their ingredients?  It can’t just be me.  A quick glance at the ingredients list and I saw it’s not just garlic, they are suspended in a cube of oil, salt, and lemon juice, I assume for freshness.

I would be lying if I if I said that I wasn’t at least a little worried that my empanadas were going to taste funny.

Luckily, making the filling is just about as easy as browning beef, so I figured if they tasted funny I would just make a new batch and life would go on.  The good thing about empanadas is that, unlike with baking, you can taste your filling as you go so you will have a pretty good idea of what your finished product is going to taste like.

That being said, I was relieved when I tasted the filling… no sign of that funny smell.  Maybe that’s just what frozen garlic smells like, I’m not a frozen garlic expert or anything.  The best part?  I didn’t even have to smell garlicky fingers all night long like I would if I had minced the garlic by hand.  Garlicky fingers are the worst.

Garlic cubes = Success! I also picked up a package of basil cubes that I think I will try in my next tomato sauce.

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I made these empanadas last week; I baked a few fresh and then we baked some from frozen this weekend as a snack.  I don’t know if the freezer works some sort of witchcraft on them, but the empanadas that we baked this weekend from frozen were even better than the ones baked from fresh!

So, that being said, I’m going to recommend you make yours ahead of time and bake them from frozen.  If you decide to bake them fresh, just know that the ones you freeze are going to taste even better!

In the recipe below, I stated both the cube amounts and the fresh amounts for the garlic and cilantro that I used.  If you’d like to make your empanada dough from scratch, you can find a recipe here and here, but I can’t vouch for either of them.  I can vouch for the frozen dough I used, as it was super easy and it baked up super crisp and flaky, and even stayed crisp after I had to stash some leftovers in the fridge.

Also, I can already see that you’re thinking about leaving out the cheese.  Trust me, you need the cheese, don’t leave it out!  You can substitute some of that pre-shredded Mexican cheese if you want but you better put some cheese in there!  I did half of my empanadas with cheese and half without and the ones with cheese were markedly better, even though they didn’t necessarily taste “cheesy.”

Also, if you’d like a little more “control” over the flavor, you could probably substitute tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (I’d recommend fire-roasted) for the “salsa” called for in the recipe.  The filling is entirely customizeable, so don’t be afraid to play around a bit to find the perfect mix for your tastes!

Savory Beef Empanadas

Makes 10 empanadas

Printable Recipe

  • 1 Tablespoon oil, olive or vegetable
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ medium onion (about ¼ cup finely chopped)
  • ½ medium bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup your favorite salsa
  • 2 cubes garlic (or 2 cloves garlic, minced)
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons adobo from can of chipotles
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, minced (optional)
  • 1 to 2 cubes cilantro (or 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, minced, more or less to taste) (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup shredded cheese (I used ¼ cup sharp cheddar + ¼ cup monterey jack)
  • 10 empanada shells, I found frozen ones at my grocery store
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)

1.  Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Add beef and cook until well-browned.  Add onion and bell pepper and continue cooking until just softened, about five minutes more.  Lower heat to medium low and add remaining ingredients except cheese and shells.  Simmer about ten minutes; set aside to cool.  Once cooled to room temperature, mix in cheese.

2.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  While working on empanadas, keep unused discs covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.  Fill each shell with 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling, then seal tightly by dampening the edge of the disc with water and folding the disc over to create a crescent shape.  Press tightly to seal, or use a fork to press closed.

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3.  To freeze:  Place empanadas in a single layer on baking sheet, put in freezer 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag for storage.

4.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F.  Brush empanada tops with egg wash, avoiding crimped edges, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly before eating.

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[ I occasionally receive discounts or coupons to try products for you.  I received coupons to purchase Dorot spices, which I'd been eyeing for months at the grocery store and would have tried anyway.  All opinions about these spices and anything else on Wee Eats are always entirely my own. ]

chicken cheesesteaks

Ok, let’s take a brief recess here from the sugar and the sweets and all of those desserts that I love so much.    Just the thought of pie is making me a little… uncomfortable.  Let’s flip the “savory” switch.

And let’s lighten it up a bit… I need something with some substance to it.

Steak? No, something light… chicken maybe… but not too light… let’s put it on some bread.

There we go…  swap out fatty rib-eye steak for lean, healthy boneless-skinless chicken breasta healthy(er) alternative to your sinful cheesesteak sandwich, .

Or, at this time of year, it may even be a resourceful way to use up the last of that dreaded leftover Thanksgiving turkey… ugh… turkey… let’s not use that word again for… at least a week or two.

Even though I have several cheese sauce recipes lurking in my “to do” lists, I can never actually bring myself to make them, especially not with the amount of food I’ve devoured in the past week… so I opted for sliced provolone cheese instead.

I’m not trying to claim that these are “authentic”, in fact I wouldn’t even call them “cheesesteak” if I had a better name for them…

Philly Chicken-Cheesesteaks?

Philly cheese-chickens?  Nah…

Phoenix Chicken-Steaks?

Ooh, I like that, maybe add some hatch chiles and monterey jack cheese… oh man.  Just thinking out loud here.  I’ve definitely smeared some leftover chipotle aioli on these babies and it was pretty amazing…

Chicken “Cheesesteaks”

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 1 lb thin-sliced boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 6 slices provolone (or cheese of your choice)
  • 6 french rolls, halved lengthwise
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, or heat your broiler (high or low, whatever you prefer).  Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium/medium-high heat.

2. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts.  A shake or two of garlic powder never hurt anyone either, just sayin.  Cook with a teaspoon or two of olive oil over medium high until cooked through, set aside.

3. Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan, and sauté peppers and onions until just tender-crisp. Salt and pepper onions and peppers to taste. Set aside.

4. Line a baking pan with foil.  Slice chicken breast into thin strips, toss with peppers and onions, and put into six “piles” on the baking sheet.  Place one slice of cheese on top of each pile, and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.  (If you have an oven-safe pan, and the ability to remember NOT TO GRAB A SUPER HOT HANDLE, you could just use your pan… but some of us aren’t that skilled).

5. Once cheese is melted, carefully remove pan from oven, and mix the chicken, peppers, onions, and cheese and pile each onto a French roll.  You can eat as is, or tightly wrap the whole sandwich in foil (with another piece of cheese, if you’re feeling naughty) and return to the oven for a few minutes to heat the bread through.

5 chile turkey burgers

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Despite the hard time I have finding good produce in the desert, during this time of year I can always count on the famous Hatch green chiles. I think, technically, their season is about up, but for the last couple weeks they’ve been flooding our grocery stores. At 50 cents a piece, I don’t have the willpower to resist!

When I get my hands on these things, I just can’t wait to roast them. Like roasting any pepper it leaves you with a soft, slightly sweeter version of what it once was. No matter what pepper it is, or how much you love the pepper raw, the roasted version puts the original to shame. A roasted hatch chile brings a smoky sweetness that perfectly complements the slightly tangy and spicy green chile pepper.

Ok, so you’ve roasted it, now what can you do with it? Just about anything, really. Throw it in some tacos, or a quesadilla, if you want to stick with the “mexican” theme. You can mix it into your scrambled eggs for a little heat or spice up a nice chip dip. Today, though, we put them on our burger. Because we can. (I know you’re shocked)… And because we’ve been a little bad lately, let’s use turkey burgers instead of beef.

Although, if you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know these are equally as taste with beef. And infinitely more adorable as sliders. Just sayin…

So, while I call these 5 chile burgers, you’re not required to use all five. Let’s count them, shall we? Hatch, Chipotle, Pepperjack (I think there’s some jalapenos in there?), then the optional asian spice from the sriracha and/or chili-garlic paste. So maybe “5 chile” is a bit of a stretch, but it’s a nice stretch that I’m willing to make, maybe I should call them “3 to 5 chile burgers”?

Oh, and don’t hate on the “chile” vs “chili” use, I use them interchangeably. I know it’s a subject of debate for some of you.

5 Chile Turkey Burgers

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 2 hatch chiles, roasted and diced
  • 1 lb ground turkey (or 1.25 lbs if that’s what size yours comes in, why do they do that, anyway?)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Pepperjack Cheese
  • Toppings of your choice (tomato, onion, lettuce)
  • Buns of your choice

Chipotle Aioli

  • ½ c mayo
  • 1 – 2 chipotles in adobo, finely minced (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil, plus extra for misting
  • 1 tsp lemon (or lime) juice
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Roast the chiles: Rub with oil and cook over a grill or under your broiler until black and bubbling on all sides. Remove from heat and place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or in a plastic bag to steam. Once cooled, peel off the skin and finely dice. Can be made one day ahead. *See notes!
  2. Make the aioli: Mix all aioli ingredients together in a blender or small container. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made one day ahead
  3. Make the patties: Gently mix ground turkey, some salt and pepper, a tablespoon or two of the aioli, and one of your diced hatch chiles together in a bowl. What’s that? You’re feeling spicy? A dash of sriracha or chili-garlic paste will help you to kick up the heat. These may also be made one day in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them. They will be very delicate (and probably pretty sticky). I also like to sprinkle them with salt and pepper on the outside of the patties as well, a drizzle of oil will help to prevent them from sticking to the grill. I make 5 ¼ lb patties.
  4. Cook patties until done, at the end of cooking top with green chiles and cheese and cover until melted.
  5. Toast buns: While not necessary, this will enhance your burger experience greatly. Rub some of the aioli on your buns and grill or broil until toasted. Top with burger and toppings as desired.

Notes: 

*For some reason I always forget that I actually want to dice my chile, I know it seems weird, but just do it that way. Patty/Dice chile/ Then cheese (to hold it all together).

*Use your leftover chipotle aioli to dip your french fries in … trust me. And opt for the Ore-Ida Fast Fries, boyfriend got me hooked on those things.

*On extra lazy days, I’ve been known to use ONLY the chipotles and the mayo, and BF has never once complained.

* If you’re worried about your mouth being on fire, go ahead and use Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese. 

*Use your leftover chipotle aioli to dip your french fries in … trust me. And opt for the Ore-Ida Fast Fries, boyfriend got me hooked on those things.

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summery chicken pasta

summer chk pasta

I AM BACK! Well, I’ve been back, but have still been recovering from vacation. You know how vacation just makes you more tired than you were before you went on vacation? Not only that, but it also sucked all the joy out of my regular life, as I don’t want to do anything except keep being on vacation.

Where you get to hang out on boats…

enjoy scenic views…

and hike through colorful canyons…

Anyway, since it is summer, and I had to be in a bikini, I decided to take a break from the sweeter things in life for a day and post this [ relative-to-what-i-usually-post ] healthful pasta recipe instead. Just a simple pasta filled with fresh veggies, lean chicken, and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic.  ;)

I do variations of this pasta all the time with different veggies … no real measurements. But this should serve as a good “jumping off point” for you. It’s actually one of BF’s favorite dinners, depending on what I throw in, of course. A splash of cream and a bit of butter never hurt anyone, though you may want to skip those depending on how far away your bikini date is.

Summery Chicken Pasta

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 1 (1-lb) box pasta, whole wheat if you want to feel a little better about it
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (thin cut will cook faster)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup white wine (optional)
  • ½ cup (1 cup if you skip the wine), low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bag baby spinach (~ 6 oz)
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, I like to halve some and leave some whole
  • ½ cup loosely-packed basil, torn, plus more for garnish (if desired)
  • Splash of heavy cream (optional, but recommended)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Italian cheese – Parmesan, Pecorino, Asiago, whatever you’ve got.

Cook pasta in salted water per package directions. Drain and set aside.

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. Bash your garlic cloves with your hand or a knife, you want them to be “broken” but not chopped or separated.

Preheat pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle oil to coat the bottom and add chicken, cooking in batches if necessary. Cook until done and transfer to a plate; tent with foil while you cook the veggies.

Add another drizzle of oil if necessary. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned. DO NOT let the garlic burn. Once the garlic is lightly browned remove the cloves of garlic and add your onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Sauté until translucent, then add your wine and cook until almost evaporated, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add your broth and bring to a boil. (Sometimes I throw my garlic cloves back in, just remember to fish them out again before you serve it).

Chop chicken to desired size pieces and return chicken, with any accumulated juices, to the pan.

Reduce heat to low and add spinach, basil, tomatoes, and cooked pasta to the skillet. Add a healthy dose of grated parmesan to the pasta. Throw in a tablespoon of butter and a dash of cream if you’re feeling saucy, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Toss until the spinach is wilted to your liking.

Serve sprinkled with extra parmesan and basil.

TIPS

  • You can also sauté bell peppers with your onion for an extra ‘punch’ of flavor
  • I like to drop a few strands of saffron into the broth while it boils as well
  • I also like to add half of my tomatoes while the broth is boiling so they burst and flavor the sauce, then the other half at the end so they are more “fresh”.