Red Lentil Coconut Basil Curry

A few weeks ago our dishwasher stopped working.  This was not a big surprise; the appliances in our kitchen are all from the late 1970s, early 1980s if you’re feeling generous.  The joys of renting an apartment is that you can know nothing about dishwashers, and yet, they still somehow magically get fixed.

Except in this case, we now have a new fridge and a new stove, but our dishwasher is still sad and broken.  On the bright side, when we cleaned out the fridge, we also tackled the cabinets.  I found a bag of red lentils my mom bought when the baby was first born.  I also found a green curry paste that went bad in May 2013.  Do lentils + curry = dinner?  Though the can of paste went in the garbage, we dined on this delicious concoction last night.

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Red Lentil Coconut Basil Curry

  • coconut oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • about 1 teaspoon grated ginger (I keep mine in the freezer for just this occasion)
  • big handful curry powder
  • about a teaspoon cumin
  • about half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • about a teaspoon salt
  • just a sprinkle of red crushed peppers
  • half a teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • about 4-5 leaves basil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • a big handful baby spinach
  • juice from half a lime
    • to serve: naan or rice, Greek yogurt, green onions
  1. In a large  skillet, heat the coconut oil over a medium heat and add onions. Saute about 4-5 minutes, and add garlic and ginger.  Cook until everything is nice and soft.
  2. Add all of the spices (curry powder, cinnamon, salt, turmeric, cumin, crushed red peppers) and the jalapeno and give everything a good toss through. (Don’t be afraid to add a little more coconut oil to keep the spices from sticking to the pan.)
  3. Add the lentils, coconut milk, stock and basil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the spinach and fold in gently, letting it wilt.  Add lime juice and adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Serve with rice or naan, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.  Top with a bit of green onion for a nice finish.

The Verdict:

The answer to the question above is a resounding yes.  This is so, so good.  Even better, it’s healthy (I think).  Best of all, this cooks itself in about 25 minutes, total.  That includes the time to cut your veggies and mince your garlic.  Yes.

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Vegetable & Soba Noodle Salad

It is officially spring in Washington, DC: my Instragram feed is full of cherry blossoms and the car is dusted with pollen.  Life is good again (as long as the tourists stick to the right side of the Metro escalator.  Seriously, ok? Right. Side.).

Spring means more happy-looking vegetables, even at our local Safeway.  It also means that fresh, quick & easy is the best way to do dinner.

This “recipe” comes courtesy of my sister, and before that, one of her friends.  Really, though, there’s no plan to follow here – just use the vegetables in your refrigerator.  Although as my sister wisely said to me, “I know you wouldn’t do this, but obviously don’t skimp on the avocado.”  OBVIOUSLY NOT.

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Soba Noodle Salad

  • 1 package soba or buckwheat noodles
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 head purple or green cabbage, shredded
  • handful sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • a big handful cilantro, chopped
  • other optional toppings: feta cheese, shredded/cooked chicken, pan fried tofu, peanuts
  • dressing:
    • 1 part olive oil
    • 1 part rice vinegar
    • 1 part soy sauce
    • 1/2 part toasted sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon or so honey, plus more as needed
    • juice from 1/2 lime
    • healthy dose sriracha
    • freshly grated ginger
    • s&p to taste
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook soba noodles until just before al dente, about 5-6 minutes.  Rinse immediately with cold water.
  2. Combine all of your chopped veggies (from bell pepper through cabbage) in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk your dressing together; continually taste and adjust to your liking.
  3. Add noodles to veggies; top with sesame seeds & dressing.  Give the bowl a thorough mix with tongs and add avocado and cilantro.  Serve warm or cold.

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The Verdict:

Husband hasn’t passed the verdict yet, so you can be the judge…d’accord?

Slow Cooked Chicken Pho

I’ve been knocked flat by a cold.  I do mean I have literally been knocked flat – getting out of bed requires a monumental amount of effort.

I need some chicken soup, but I need to be able to make it without having to stand up for too long, because that gives me the coughs.  Obviously, my slow cooker is going to save the day; recipe inspired by Eating Well.  Because what could be better for your breathing than lots (and lots) of Asian spice?

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Slow Cooked Chicken Pho

  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts, skim removed
  • 8 cups chicken broth (the best stuff you have)
  • about 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • about 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 8 whole star anise
  • dash ground cloves
  • dash crushed reds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 inches fresh peeled ginger, grated
  • 1/2 package udon noodles
  • 5-6 bunches baby bok choy, washed, bottoms removed, and roughly chopped
  • fresh herbs: basil, cilantro
  • toppings: scallions, thinly sliced yellow or white onions, sriracha, fresh lime, hoisin sauce, jalapeno
  1. In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sear in the pan, 3-4 minutes on each side, to maximize chicken flavor.
  2. In your slow cooker, combine ingredients starting with the broth and going through ginger.  Give it a quick mix and then add the chicken, meat side down.  Cook on low for about 7 hours.  Take out the chicken from the slow cooker, and remove it from the bone.  (Optional step: strain the broth for the star anise, so you don’t accidentally bite down on them later.)  When slightly cooled, shred, and add back to the cooker for another 20-30 minutes.
  3. With about 20 minutes to go, boil water for your udon noodles and cook according to directions.
  4. With about 5-10 minutes to go, add the bok choy to the slow cooker and give it a stir.
  5. Place noodles in a bowl and ladle the chicken soup over the top.  Serve with your desired toppings – big handful of herbs, sriracha, lime juice, anything that sets your mouth on fire.

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The Verdict:

The crunch and spice of the basil, cilantro and scallions at the end are a must.  This was the first thing I’ve actually tasted in a while, so you know it tasted good.  Anything with this much heat is bound to clear up the sinuses, at least for a little while!  That being said, the Husband really dug this, too…though he thought it might be better with a little less star anise.  Would love feedback from anyone who gives it a go!

What I’ve Got in the Pantry Enchiladas.

You may ask: is this meal healthy, even in a relative sense?

You might ask: is this actual cooking, or did you just throw everything in your pantry together and call it a meal?

In fact, you could ask lots of things.

(The answers, by the way, in respective order: no, sort of, and yes, absolutely.  I don’t feel badly about that.)

Inspired by my very first cookbook…wait for it…the Complete Idiot’s Guide to 20 Minute Meals.  That bad boy has been around so long it’s missing pages and a spine.  But it was a backbone to my college experience, and I’m never getting rid of it.

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(Things That Are in My Pantry) Enchiladas

  • 1 15 oz can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • about 4 oz cream cheese
  • about 6 oz shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
  • dash of the following spices: cumin, chili powder, taco or adobo seasoning, crushed reds
  • 1 jar salsa, any kind you like – or your own homemade, if you’ve got the ingredients + time
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced thinly
  • salt & pepper
  • 4-6 large flour tortillas
  • optional/topping: limes, cilantro, green onion, sour cream, hot sauce, more cheese, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In an oven safe pan, thoroughly mix together the corn, black beans, cream cheese and shredded cheese, spices, and about 2/3 of the jar of salsa.  Bake for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a saute pan, heat some olive oil.  Cook the onion and peppers down, about 5-7 minutes, and season with a little bit of salt and pepper.
  3. Pull the corn mixture from the oven and spread a bit down the middle of a tortilla.  Top with a bit of onions/peppers, then roll it up and put in another oven safe pan.  Repeat, placing the enchiladas in neat, tight little rolls, until the filling is all used up.  Or, use the rest of it to make nachos!  Top with a little bit of cheese and salsa and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with your choice of accoutrement – a squeeze of lime juice as they come out of the oven, a little bit of sour cream, anything your decadent little heart desires.

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The Verdict:

No one is winning any Michelin stars for this meal.  BUT this requires very little effort on your part, makes tons of leftovers, and can be tweaked in about 1001 ways to suit what you have in your pantry, so you, too, can eat un-healthfully and without guilt.  It’s pretttttttty tasty, to boot.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Quesadillas

One of the nicest things about living where we live is that we walk to and fro work. (I won’t lie: during the week, I get to feeling pretty self-righteous about the numbers on my Jawbone.  Of course, those numbers take a swan dive off a very high cliff on weekends, when I prioritize catching up on all my Hart of Dixie.)

Sometimes, I walk home with my friend and co-worker, K.  We spend most of the walk talking food.  Tonight, K suggested making these – inspired by Smitten Kitchen.

mostly, i'm in it for the cheese.
mostly, i’m in it for the cheese.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Quesadillas

  • 1 bag mixed broccoli & cauliflower florets
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, chili powder
  • 1/2 large onion or 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • about 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • flour tortillas
  • optional: sour cream, cilantro, avocado
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Scatter the broccoli and cauliflower florets in a large baking pan, coat with a bit of olive oil, and toss with salt, pepper, and a dash of chili powder.  Roast for about 20 minutes.
  2. As the florets roast, heat olive oil in a saute pan, add the onions and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until translucent.  Add the jalapeno and poblano peppers and cook another 5-6 minutes.
  3. When the florets are done roasting, add to a food processor and roughly pulse them just a few times – you don’t want them turning them to mush.  Add the lime juice and give a quick stir with a fork.
  4. Build your quesadilla: spread the broccoli/cauliflower mixture over one tortilla, add the onion and peppers over it, top with cheese and a couple of scallions.  Cover with one more tortilla on top.  Heat a large grill pan over medium heat and cook the quesadilla for about 3 minutes before flipping – very carefully – to the other side, and cooking another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Cut into wedges and serve with a bit of sour cream (I gussied mine up with a little lime juice and cumin), cilantro, and avocado.
good times.
good times.

The Verdict:

Did I use one too many pans to make…quesadillas?  While we’re on the subject, does anyone need to use a food processor to make…quesadillas?  Yes, and absolutely not, respectively.  Still, these were delicious (although honestly, how could they not be, between veggies, cheese and carbs?!).  I think the Husband will be mighty pleased to find these in his lunch bag tomorrow.