Red Lentil Soup with Kale and Spinach

That moment when you’ve come back from a trip and it’s freezing and the idea of putting on your coat and going to the grocery store and lugging those groceries home and just, no, no, you just can’t?  That’s the moment for this soup, inspired by my fridge…and the Kitchn.  Every single ingredient was already in my fridge or my pantry- and is likely in yours, too.  And if not? Just substitute in the veggies that are.

so many veggies in one pot!
so many veggies in one pot!

Red Lentil Soup with Kale and Spinach

  • olive oil
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 ribs celery, diced
  • optional: any other leftover vegetables you might have laying about – I threw in some yellow bell pepper, which was lovely
  • 1 onion, diced
  • salt, pepper & crushed reds (you know, the essentials)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • about a cup red lentils, rinsed and picked
  • about 4-6 cups broth and/or water, if you don’t have broth…more or less depending on how “soupy” you like your soup
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • dash cumin
  • large handful kale
  • large handful spinach
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • optional toppings: Greek yogurt, cilantro, parsley, etc.
  1. Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery, & onions, add a good pinch of salt, a dash of pepper & crushed reds, and cook gently – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, cook for a minute or two, then add the lentils, give them a quick toss with the veggies, and add the broth, bay leaf, and a dash of cumin.
  3. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Simmer with the cover on, about 12 minutes.
  4. Add the kale and spinach, stir through, and then cover and simmer another 8-10 minutes.
  5. Removing the soup from the heat, add the lemon juice, ladle into bowls and serve with your desired toppings.
so good & so good for you.
so good & so good for you.

The Verdict:

So healthy, so wallet friendly, so quick and easy.  What’s not to love?

Fiesta Friday: Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce and Crispy Chickpeas

First off, a very, very happy first-ever block party to Angie and the crew over at The Novice Gardener! I am not a regular over there, more like a creepy neighbor, looking over the fence.  So this time, I’m actually bringing something.  And it’s delicious and totally not creepy.

We ate this recipe, inspired by the Smitten Kitchen, for dinner, but made with smaller eggplants, this is a delectable, decadent appetizer.  (As the Husband said, right after he finished his eggplant off, and right before he heated up some leftover pizza, “this might be too much veggie to be dinner.”)

all lined up.
all lined up.

Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce and Crispy Chickpeas

for the eggplant & chickpeas

  • 2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry (really, you just need one can, but if you’re like me, you’ll eat so many of these as they’re coming out of the oven that if you want enough to actually eat with your eggplant, you should make two cans)
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • generous handful each of smoked paprika and garlic powder
  • 1 or 2 large eggplants, or 3 small, Italian-style eggplants

for the sauce

  • 3 heaping tablespoons tahini
  • about 2/3 cup plain greek yogurt (I supplemented with a bit of light sour cream)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon, plus a bit of freshly grated zest
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper, a touch of crushed reds, if you please
  • 3-4 tablespoons parsley, divided
these are the healthiest things you'll ever become addicted to.
these are the healthiest things you’ll ever become addicted to.
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, spread out the chickpeas, drizzle about 2-3 tablespoons olive oil all over.  Toss chickpeas evenly with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and garlic powder.  Bake for about 30-40 minutes; make sure to give them a toss at least once or twice so they don’t burn.  Dust with another quick pinch of salt as they come out of the oven.
  2. On another baking sheet, spread out another layer of aluminum foil, and spray with a bit of olive oil.  Cut the eggplants in half and spray both the tops and the bottoms with a bit of olive oil.  Arrange cut side up and season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes and then flip.
  3. As the chickpeas and eggplant cook, make the sauce.  Whisk together the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, a few grinds of pepper, a tablespoon of parsley and a touch of crushed reds.
  4. Serve the eggplant, cut side up, topped with sauce, the crispy chickpeas, and a bit more parsley.
appetizer or dinner, it doesn't matter.  just eat it.
appetizer or dinner, it doesn’t matter. just eat it.

The Verdict

This. Was. Awesome.  As appetizers go, this IS a dish for which you will need a knife and a fork, but hey, that’s a small price to pay.  This does not reheat well, as the eggplant gets a bit mushy…so invite all your friends!  And thanks, Angie, for inviting us!

Slow-Braised Salmon with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

It’s one of my New Year’s resolutions: cook more fish at home (sorry, Husband-who-doesn’t-like-fish).  The only problem is: I don’t actually like the smell of fish lingering in my kitchen after I grill or saute it.  In general, I use the oven to bake fish (a little soy sauce, a little brown sugar, and poof! Dinner!), but I wondered: could the solution be even easier?  As in, could I, as in all things tasty and easy, use my crockpot?

It turns out, yes, yes I can, and so can the Husband, who executed this recipe, inspired by Williams Sonoma.

salmon in the crockpot? yes.
salmon in the crockpot? yes.

Slow-Braised Salmon with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

for the salmon

  • about 1/2 cup veggie, seafood, or chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • pinch salt
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or dill, which pairs great with salmon, but I can never find)
  • as many salmon fillets as you can stand to eat (or fit in your crockpot without layering)
  • fresh ground pepper
  • baby spinach, for serving

for the sauce

  • 1 shallot, diced
  • about a cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon light mayo
  • another sprig or two of thyme, twiggy parts discarded
  • fresh parsley, chopped (the Husband used cilantro, which, if you’re like me, you’ll also find works, despite the weird-sounding combo.  Parsley would work slightly better with the lemony notes of thyme, though.)
  • pinch ground cumin
  • 2-3 small cucumbers, diced
  • optional: wedge lemon
  1. In your crockpot (yay!), combine the stock, wine, onion, thyme, salt, pepper and about a 1/2 cup of water.  Stir, cover, and cook on low for 30 minutes.
  2. Add salmon, skin side down, cover, grind a little bit of pepper on top, and cook on low for about an hour.  The fish will turn opaque and be completely, deliciously tender.
  3. As the fish cooks, whisk together the yogurt, a touch of mayo, shallot, more thyme, parsley, pinch cumin and the cucumber.  Season with salt and pepper and if you so desire, a squeeze of lemon.
  4. Serve the salmon on top of the baby spinach and spoon the sauce over each fillet; garnish with parsley.  Eat up.
after this: meal of chocolate-covered pretzels.
after this: meal of chocolate-covered pretzels.

The Verdict:

The Husband smothered his in sauce, but he declared this highly edible, if not outright…good.  I loved this – so easy, so tasty, so healthy, and delicious the next day, served cold with a salad of spinach and avocado.  Bonus: you can eat as many chocolate-covered pretzels as you like after this; you earned them.

Dinner for Four: Slow Cooked Pork Loin with Arugula and Mozzarella

Last night was the first time since starting this blog that we’ve had more than just the two of us at the dinner table.  So we busted out our secret weapon: the crockpot.

The Husband has been a firm believer in the crockpot since before we started dating.  And while I had some doubts initially (doesn’t all the food turn out mushy?), I have joined the ranks of the converted.  Nothing is easier than set it, forget it, eat it.  So that’s exactly what we did, plus a few bottles of wine, to delicious results.

The “recipe” that follows is more of a guideline, than a recipe.  Sadly, we didn’t capture this on camera, as I was too excited to eat and completely forgot…

Slow Cooked Pork Loin with Arugula and Mozzarella

  • olive oil
  • 1.5-2 lbs of pork tenderloin
  • 1-2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/2 chopped red onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ketchup – a couple of squirts
  • about 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 package of French onion soup mix (I know, I know, but it really does add great flavor!)
  • a little something sweet – a dash of honey or a spoonful of brown sugar
  • salt, pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • arugula
  • (another) 1/2 chopped red onion
  • sliced fresh mozzarella
  1. If you have the time, sear the pork loin in olive oil until browned on all sides before putting it in the crockpot.  It will give it a better, deeper flavor.
  2. Place the pork loin at the bottom of the crockpot, pour the chicken stock over the pork and mix in the rest of the ingredients, through the red pepper.  Set on low and cook for 8-9 hours.  Go to work!
  3. With about 20 minutes to go, warm some olive oil in a saute pan, cook down the onions.  Add some salt and pepper (and if you’re like us, some more crushed reds!), and then a large bunch of arugula – it will cook down significantly!
  4. Slice the loin and serve in a shallow bowl, topped with some of the cooking liquid, a slice of mozzarella cheese, and the greens and onion mixture.  The cheese will melt and the greens will add both a spice and a texture to the pork – which should be delicious on its own!

The Verdict:

The Husband first made this meal for me after I returned from three months of living away from him.  It was delicious then, and it was delicious now.  This is definitely a go-to for easy, relatively elegant, hearty food.

(Mostly) Healthy Living: Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

Before my parents moved out of our childhood home a year or so ago, my mom spent about a year prior to that downsizing all of our (material) things, including her collection of cookbooks.  Which means somehow I ended up with the 1998 Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook.  And I’ve actually cooked out of it…which leads us to tonight’s meal.

Spoiler alert: this (adapted) recipe is a go-to in our house.  I make it when I’m feeling run down, tired or feel like I really just need a big bowl of nutrition.  (Yes, that is a feeling).  I’ve made it with all different types of broth and greens; I think the combination of Swiss chard and beef broth is the best.

Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups beef broth (veggie, mushroom, chicken, beef, even mixed with water – whatever you have.)
  • 1 cup dried lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
  • 1 big bunch Swiss chard, leaves shredded (I like the red Swiss chard best, though we’ve also used mustard greens, collard greens, kale and even spinach.  The only big miss was the mustard greens.)
  • handful cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crushed red pepper
  • juice from 1 or two lemons
  • Optional: cilantro, parmesan cheese
  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and then add onions.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes; add garlic.  Keep stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn, and then add broth and lentils.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are cooked through (about 35 minutes).
  2. Add the Swiss chard, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper.  Cook until chard wilts, above 5-6 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice.  Eyeball the broth – make sure there’s enough in there to meet your needs!
  3. Serve with cilantro and – if you’re feeling decadent – parmesan cheese.
does everything around here have cilantro? apparently so.
apparently, everything around here features cilantro.

The Verdict:

I made tonight’s version with a combination of chicken and mushroom broth, which didn’t quite pack the same punch as beef broth.  But it was delicious, all the same, and makes plenty of leftovers (again, if you’re feeding only two people).  And it would have been super healthy, too, had the Husband not had his with a side of…mini frozen pizzas.  You win some, you lose some.  At least we got that bowl of nutrition.