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!

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!

10 Bean Soup

After spending a week away from home and enjoying eating out a little too much, it’s always nice to settle back into the routine and eating homemade meals again. I’ve always loved going to the grocery store and now that Sienna is a little bit older and more aware of her surroundings it’s a fun little outing for us. I remember when she was only a couple of weeks old and I was dreading going to the store… How much time do I have in between feedings? What if she starts melting down while I’m debating if I should get gala or granny smith apples? #firsttimemommyproblems.

I love Sprouts because I can buy bulk. All of our homemade meals tend to be vegan so we always have a lot of beans at hand. I bumped into this 10 bean soup mix in the bulk section the other day and since the weather is back to being a little chilly at night I thought – heck, I’m making another soup. I promise that once we hit warmer days, I will be posting more salad and “hot weather” recipes.

This soup turned out delicious – husband approved! I did add some cooked quinoa that I already had in the fridge to John’s bowl. I wanted to make sure the soup worked as a full meal for him so that seemed to do the trick. Also, I left the seeds in the jalapeño for more of a spicy soup. If you are looking for a milder flavor, make sure you deseed the bad boy first.

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10 Bean Soup – Yields About 4 Cups – Vegan – Gluten Free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of 10 bean mix (found it at Sprouts)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini – diced
  • 1 jalapeño – minced
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 large carrot – diced
  • 1/2 medium onion – minced
  • 1.5 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • avocado for garnish

Directions:

Rinse and soak the bean mix overnight.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and jalapeño an cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

Add the carrots, salt, pepper and cumin and continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes. Stir so that the vegetables don’t burn and cook evenly.

Add the tomatoes (with the juice), vegetable broth and bean mix. Bring to a boil and then bring the heat down to a simmer.

Allow beans to cook for about 1 hour then add the zucchini. Stir occasionally and continue to cook for another 30 – 40 minutes, until the beans are tender. If the broth is reduced too much, you can always add another half a cup.

Serve in bowls and garnish with avocado cubes.

Buen Provecho!

Quinoa “Ramen”

The other day I was craving ramen but a) I didn’t have all of the ingredients for ramen and b) I was looking for a healthier dinner option. We had a lot of leftover miso paste from our last trip to the Asian market and I noticed we also had seaweed, kimchi and vegetables that could join forces and turn into some sort of ramen-ish soup.

With no noodles in the house I decided to just cook some quinoa in a miso broth and it actually turned out pretty good! For a vegetarian option, you can soft boil an egg and add it to the recipe below.

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Quinoa “Ramen” – Yields 2 Large Bowls – Vegan – Gluten Free

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa
  • 1 quart of vegetable broth
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 12(ish) shishito peppers
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of miso paste
  • 2 large handfuls of red spinach (you can sub for regular spinach)
  • 1/2 cup of kimchi (look for an option with no fish sauce if you want a completely vegan dish)
  • sesame oil for garnish
  • roasted seaweed for garnish
  • salt, pepper and olive oil for roasted vegetables

Directions:

Preheat the oven at 375F. Cut the head of broccoli into florets and spread on a large cookie tray along with the shishito peppers. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast vegetables for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil and dissolve miso paste in the liquid. Add quinoa and bring down to a simmer, quinoa will begin cooking.

In a small pan add the olive oil and cookthe spinach lightly until it’s wilted. Set aside.

Assemble two bowls with: seaweed, 1/4 cup of kimchi each, wilted spinach and roasted broccoli and shishitos once they are done roasting.

When the quinoa is ready add quinoa to the bowls and then ladle some broth on top. Drizzle with sesame oil.

Enjoy!

Sienna and I are headed down to Guadalajara for a few days later today and I am hoping that she will do good on the flight. Wish us luck!

Lazy Girl Chipotle Chili

When John goes out of town for work I rock my lazy girl lifestyle. My daily priorities are the same (i.e cooking, working, keeping the house in order, getting a good dose of exercise, getting some vitamin D by stepping outside for at least a small chunk of our day…) but my pace definitely changes. I feel confident in being able to take care of Sienna by myself but I have to admit that days are a little more stressful and tiring when I’m playing single parent.

I don’t get my little morning break where I can walk Charlie or where I can go for a run. I don’t have a partner who will get up and give Sienna her pacifier at night if she cries. I have to bring my A game and make sure that Sienna is getting everything she needs so I take a little more relaxed approach to my day in order to keep my anxiety levels at a minimum.

I keep my lululemon pants on all day. I put my hair in a high bun. I don’t put on my contact lenses. And most importantly – I bring my trusted friend the crockpot out to help me with dinner.

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This is a take on regular bean chili just a little more Mexican(ized). Perfect for a hearty and comforting dinner after taking care of a baby all day. A glass of wine to accompany it is highly recommended.

Lazy Girl Chipotle Chili – Yields about 6 cups – Vegan – Gluten Free

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini – cubed
  • 1 medium russet potato – cubed
  • 1 small sweet onion – finely diced
  • 15 cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 jalapeño – minced
  • 1 can of black beans – rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans – rinsed and drained
  • 2.5 cups of veggie broth
  • 1 pack of Chipotle Chili Salsa (I use this one brand because who doesn’t love Rick Bayless? – Also, no fake ingredients.)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 lime
  • cilantro for garnish
  • avocado for garnish

Directions:

Add all ingredients to the crockpot – cook on low for 10 hours or high for about 5 (just check for desired consistency). Adjust seasonings. Serve in bowls and garnish with avocado, a splash of lime and cilantro.

Buen Provecho!

Poblano Power Bowl

I love cooking vegan food for non vegan friends who have an open mind about it. John has always been willing to try anything I cook and he’s always honest with his feedback, so I’m never concerned about cooking vegan at home. It’s a win win considering it helps us keep a clean and healthy lifestyle during the week… On weekends we enjoy a little indulging :).

Our friend Derrik came over for dinner the other night. Not only was a cooking vegan for a non vegan friend, I was also cooking Mexican for an American who is probably more Mexican than myself. If you know Derrik you know what I’m talking about.

As we were chatting and eating away, I stopped to ask him if he was enjoying the food. “I’m happy” – he said.

I’ll take that.

All three bowls were emptied.

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(Excuse my photo that was taken in the dark.)

This meal works as both dinner and lunch. The enchilada sauce is a bit acidic due to the tomatillos but it’s nicely balanced with the heartiness and sweetness of the cooked vegetables. Also, roasted poblanos taste good on anything… Just saying.

Poblano Tomatillo Tofu Bowls – Yields 4 – Gluten Free – Vegan

Ingredients:

1 pack of extra firm pressed tofu – cubed
1 zucchini – sliced
1 head of broccoli – chopped
1 poblano pepper – charred and diced
1 large russet potato – cubed
1 avocado – cubed
1 green bell pepper – diced
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 cup of veggie broth
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 green enchilada salsa (I bought this one)

Directions:

Turn the stove on medium high and place the poblano pepper on top of the burner for charring. Turn it as it starts charring so that all sides are cooking evenly.

Place the poblano in a plastic bag and tie a knot on the bag- this will help you remove the skin later.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until onions are soft.

Add the potatoes and all of the spices. Cook for 7 – 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the broccoli, bell pepper, zucchini, tofu and enchilada sauce.

Cook for 10 minutes, lower heat a bit if it starts to boil.

Remove the poblano from the plastic bag and take the skin off, it should pee off easily. Dice.

Lastly, add the diced poblano to the pot and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes.

Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve in bowls and add avocado cubes on top.

Enjoy!

Shopping Spree

Moving to San Diego has expanded my palate immensely. Before living here, I always thought that I had already tasted a lot of different flavors of the world…. I was clearly in the wrong.

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John and I spend a good amount of our paychecks (mostly his paycheck nowadays) on food and restaurants. I remember when I first moved in with him. We looked at our bank statement and realized that we needed to adjust our budget. We had spent a ridiculous amount of money on going out to eat. I’m pretty sure that this had to do with the fact that I had an ongoing list of restaurants that I wanted to try. So it was kind of my doing… Restaurants are my weakness though, how can you not love just trying new food and sharing experiences with good company? Going out to a new restaurant is my equivalent of a shopping spree.

I also fell more in love with John through this “expense” – he was dying to take me to Convoy street to try Korean BBQ. I remember him ordering like a pro, even asking the server for some lettuce leaves which aren’t even offered on then menu. It was an adventure and I tried flavors that I had never been exposed to before. We tried Ethiopian, French, Indian, Vietnamese…

Thai food has become one of our favorites. We probably eat it once a week. One of our dear friends (Hi Kira!) is a girl from Thailand who is the best at cooking traditional Thai meals so she’s given us a lesson or two. I made Pad Thai for the first time with her and she filled me in on all the ingredients that we probably needed to get at an Asian market (99 cent ranch market for the win).

Now that we’ve gone out to restaurants a lot and I’ve been exposed to all of these spices and combinations, I am at a place where I’m attempting to recreate some dishes we’ve had and learn how to cook dishes from other cultures. Going out is still something that I very much enjoy, I’m always on the lookout for new places. However, I’ve been equally enjoying cooking at home for my loved ones and friends. It’s cheaper, healthier and definitely a little more intimate as you welcome people into your home.

Som tum has a special place in my heart, John and I probably had it every day during our honeymoon in Thailand. So good!

I made som tum and red curry this past weekend. I think the curry could use some changes so I won’t hurry and share that recipe with you just yet. The som tum was delicious, super fresh, crisp and with the right amount of spice and sweetness.

Som Tum – Yields 6 cups – Gluten Free – Vegan

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of shredded green papaya
  • 1 cup of shredded carrots
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup of green beans cut into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup of roasted peanuts
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 4 tablespoons of thai palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Tamara
  • 2 thai chilies
  • Juice of 3 large limes

Directions:

In a large bowl, pound the garlic clove and the chilies until you form a smooth paste.

Add the palm sugar and pound it into the paste as well.

Add 1/4 cup of peanuts and pound into small pieces, don’t allow them to form a thick paste though.

Add the green beans and pound them until they are slightly bruised and opened.

Add the tomatoes and pound then lightly, just enough to get the juices out of them and into the mix.

Add the papaya, carrots and remaining 1/4 cup of peanuts. Mix well.

Add the juice of the limes and the soy sauce. Use two large wooden spoons to mix until the ingredients are all coated with juices.

Serve in bowls or small side dishes.

Note: I like papaya salad chilled so I had our bowl sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving.