Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

IMG_1688My cooking “window” has shifted around here. Sienna used to take three long naps every day and usually, it was during the third nap that I would tiptoe my way around the kitchen to make dinner or work on a recipe that had been floating around my mind.

We’re down to two naps and the one that Sienna dropped was my “cooking nap” so I have been cooking at different times of day now. A couple of weeks ago we were in this transition phase where Sienna was going through some developmental milestones and being held a lot was what she needed at the time. Right now, it looks like she is able to play by herself for some time and although she still kind of freaks out when she sees me walk away, I don’t necessarily have to be holding her. As long as she can be seeing me or John then she’s good for a bit. Lately, our early morning alert time is either used up on a walk or in the kitchen. Sienna no longer slouches in the bumbo so she can just sit comfortably and watch anything going on in the kitchen. This pie took about one hour to make including prep time and for the entire time Sienna did great just observing what I did and listening to me chatter about cooking. Also, she definitely wanted in on these mashed potatoes:

IMG_1668She seems to be very interested in food these days and I couldn’t be happier about that. Of course my dream would be to raise a little foodie who loves to spend time in the kitchen with me but I know toddlers get through a “picky” phase when it comes to food so we’ll see how that goes. There is only so much I can control. For now, I am trying to expose different flavors to her palate and she seems happy about it. I set aside some mashed potatoes and stuffing without salt and pureed it for her so she could try the pie as well. I’m hoping she likes it! Lentils are high in protein and iron so this is a great option for infants.

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This pie is such a hearty and delicious alternative for dinner. The ingredient list is also pretty simple so it’s definitely not an intimidating recipe. Leftovers can be reheated either in the oven or in the microwave. And just for fun, here’s a photo of my other kitchen helper – he keeps the floors and he loves sunbathing in the morning.

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Lentil Shepherd’s Pie – Serves 6 – Vegan – Gluten Free

Ingredients: 

For the Mash:

  • 5 golden yukon potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of earth balance
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Stuffing:

  • 1.5 cups of uncooked green lentils
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • 1 medium carrot – diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion – diced
  • 2 garlic cloves – finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut the potatoes in half and place in a large pot. Cover with water and boil for about 20 to 30 minutes – until the potatoes are cooked enough to mash. Drain the water and move potatoes over to a bowl where you can mash them with a fork or potato masher. Add earth balance, salt and pepper and mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a large saucepan (I used the same large pot used with the potatoes as our saucepan isn’t big enough) sautee the carrots, garlic and onion with the olive oil. Cook enough to make the onion translucent – about 5 minutes. Add the broth, lentils, tomato paste, thyme, salt and pepper (I did about a teaspoon o salt and a little less pepper). Bring to a boil and them simmer for about 30 minutes, just make sure the lentils are cooked through but not as much that they become mushy.

Add the corn and peas to the pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Grease a square pan with either earth balance or olive oil. Add stuffing into the pan and top with the mashed potatoes. Bake for about 15 minutes – until the potatoes are golden.

Cool before serving – if you serve while it is too hot it will most likely be runny and not thick enough to hold.

Enjoy!

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Hoppy Rhapsody

I remember my first sip of IPA. I had just moved to San Diego and I had never tried a hoppy beer. John’s favorite beer at the time was Stone’s IPA and it was with him that I tried it for the first time. He told me what IPA meant and the whole story of how hops were added in the beer in order to allow the beer to make the long journey from England to India. I remember tasting the bitterness of the hops and grimacing in disapproval. People drink this for enjoyment?

Fast forward five years and I am officially a hop lover. I’ve learned to differentiate styles and flavors in beer. It’s not surprising that I’m a beer fan since we live in America’s Beer Capital – however, personally I’ve had a really cool beer journey. From not being a beer drinker (ever!) to living on 30th street (home of so many breweries), to going back home to Mexico and noticing how the craft beer movement is catching up down there… so awesome. I’m a little bit of a snob but not in a negative pretentious way, if that makes any sense.. I know that craft beer tastes better if it is poured in the proper glass so I rarely drink from the bottle anymore, yet I can still sip on Pacifico’s on the beach on a warm day. It’s just so neat to learn and understand a beverage. What goes into it, the passion behind the brewers who make it, the combination of ingredients…All great things take time and effort and I find value in the art of crafting beer.

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Image via @lalo1981_

 

Here are my 5 favorite IPA’s right now – all so delicious!

1. Insurgente La Lupulosa – American IPA – 5 Hops – Fruity – Malty – Hints of Caramel – Made in Mexico (YES!).

2. Modern Times Booming Rollers – American IPA – Citrus – Tropical – Refreshing – “Light” Bitterness.

3. Pizza Port Lono – Mango IPA – Silky – Golden – Juicy – Well Balanced – Robust – You can actually taste the M A N G O!

4. Alpine Nelson – Golden Rye IPA – New Zealand Hops – European Rye – Malty Flavor – Dry Hopped.

5. Stone Japanese Green Tea Collaboration – Herbal & Hoppy – Bitter Finish – Light – Dry – Grassy.

Cheers!

Simple Red Curry

Cooking Thai food is slowly becoming less and less intimidating to me. It’s already hard to dive in and create recipes with ingredients that you are 100% familiar and comfortable with… let alone when you throw in new spices and textures.

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We used to buy bottled up curry sauce all the time, usually the one we found at Trader Joe’s. And while the flavor is good, I’ve never been sold on the ingredients labeled on the back of the bottle. I’d like to assume that due to shelf life that needs to be prolonged, I find ingredients like: dehydrated coconut milk instead of real coconut milk on the label. And that cornstarch is added as a thickener. Not surprisingly, sugar is the third ingredient (!!) in most of these bottled curries… a fact that I just chose to overlook when I just needed to make a “quick dinner”.

It’s nice being able to create a healthier blueprint of these sauces at home. You need fewer ingredients than you would think (sigh of relief).

I heard this quote once and it has really stuck with me: “If we don’t have to be sick, then we have to make time to be healthy”. Amen.

This curry is easy to make and it only takes about 45 minutes to come together with plenty of leftovers for the day after or perhaps enough food to host a nice casual dinner with friends.

This was my second attempt at making this recipe and we loved it! A dry lager is recommended as a good beer pairing for the spice level :).

Simple Red Curry – Serves 6 – Gluten Free – Vegan

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower – chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper – chopped
  • 2 medium carrots – peeled and diced
  • 2 small Thai dragon peppers – finely diced (found at 99c ranch market)
  • 1/2 onion – finely diced
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu – pressed and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons of curry powder
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of coconut milk (13.5 fluid ounces)
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1.5 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper

Directions:

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, Thai chilies and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes until the onions are transparent.

Add the tofu, cauliflower, red bell pepper and curry powder. Stir so that the powder coats all of the vegetables. Add veggie broth and tomatoes (with juice). Cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

Add coconut milk, chickpeas, salt, pepper and allow to cook for another 15 minutes,this time uncovered, until the desired thickness is achieved.

Check for seasonings and serve atop a bed of rice or quinoa.

Enjoy!

Sienna Kai: 6 Month Update

IMG_1122Whoa! We hit the 6 month mark!

This past month with Sienna was pretty eventful. We traveled, tried new foods, went to our first arts and crafts baby party and we got a pretty bad case of teething with a side of cold (still trying to get better!). Insert sad face emoji here. There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing your baby sick, luckily she still shows me little hints of her personality which give me comfort and remind me that everything will be alright.

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Moving on – The big thing that I noticed this month is that she really started to explore the world. She tries to grab everything she can reach and she is taking time in observing everything in detail. It’s like everything was out of focus for a while and all of a sudden she can see detail so it’s all new again. I say this because our daily routine at home is fairly consistent and she knows her space already, however, things that never used to get her attention are now so attractive to her. The fridge for example. We have magnets and photo booth pics all over it and now every time that we walk by it, her little arms stretch out and try to grab a photo. It’s pretty cute. She also has been a fan of being held in a standing position, her legs are getting strong!

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She loves Charlie so much! I notice that she is constantly looking around the house for him and every time he is close she reaches out to touch him. She also gets a kick out of seeing him play with his ball. She starts laughing when he starts chasing it or when she sees him running around at the dog park. I feel so happy knowing that they are going to have each other in their lives.

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Sienna tried a number of new foods this month and so far she’s loved everything! She can’t sit up on her own yet so she still gets a little frustrated sometimes as she still needs to be propped up or held during meal times. She doesn’t seem to mind different food textures so whenever I give her food that I make, I don’t really puree it that much for her. Yesterday we were out eating and John and I were taking turns holding her as she was fussing quite a bit, we had french fries on the table so I figured I’d just hand her one to hold and play with to see if she would calm down a little. She went bananas! She even started shaking a little when I pulled it away and wanted me to give it back to her…. ha! I guess I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t love french fries.

Sleep has still been great – John and I always joke that we will probably get the other end of the stick whenever we have our second… We are officially down to two naps a day and early bedtime. She wakes up cooing now which is so cute to hear on the monitor, she’s quite the talker. I’ve noticed she’s more interested in exploring her vocal skills than her motor skills as she still doesn’t roll over (she’s done it like 3 times total) or move around much when she’s laying down. We are done with swaddles and now use the Merlin Magic Sleepsuit for all naps and nighttime sleep. I’m hoping I can transition her out of the suit before summer hits as it’s definitely warm inside the suit. Also, she loves sleeping with her little fluffy puppy. Whenever it’s nap time she grabs him and holds him close to herself, I swear right now she likes to snuggle more with him than with us. One of the nights that she was sick we tried to bring her in bed with us and she didn’t love it, she fell asleep back in her crib with her pup 🙂

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Her dislikes right now are getting changed, the car seat (doing a little better but honestly it’s still on the dislike list), seeing mom or dad walk away from the room now that she knows what distance is and getting her face wiped off.

Our trip to Guadalajara was a lot of fun. She did great with the time zone transition and seemed to be more adjusted than our first visit during Christmas. I was able to hang out with my close friends on evenings while my parents took care of her and did our bedtime routine with her. My wish is that she grows and learns to love trips back to Guadalajara as much as I do, it’s important to me that she gets to know my family down there so this was a great start. We will probably head back down there in the summer and hopefully in the future we can leave her with her grandparents for a couple of days.

IMG_0612And before I wrap this update up:

IMG_1126We started marking our wall with her height! Granted I know we won’t be living at this house during her entire childhood but I had always wanted to do this whenever I thought of being a mom.

Thank you for another month together Sienna Kai! I love you!