Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Betsys Lentil and Couscous Curry

Recipe #106: http://vegweb.com/recipes/betsys-lentil-and-couscous-curry

I seem to be on a bit (ok, a lot) of a lentil kick lately. I have no idea why - I never really thought much about lentils before, but now that I've discovered them, I keep eating them. Maybe it's the red colour... cheap and cheerful?

I don't actually know Betsy, the author of this recipe. I just happened to find it on a random search for a way to use up some of my stock of staples, both in the interest of not wasting food and also preparing to move in the (hopefully!) very near future. I was going to bring the results of this recipe attempt to a birthday party on the weekend (I figured it would meet with approval from my vegetarian friends there), but I ran out of time that day. In retrospect, it's probably a good thing as I wasn't sure how this would turn out. 

I adjusted a few things when I made my version tonight. I used an entire small onion, 1 orange pepper, 2 stalks celery, 1 bunch broccoli including stem, 1 small zucchini, 1 regular-sized carrot, and some low sodium organic vegetable broth (2 cups total) that I found at the store. [Word of advice: if you make a cup of mint tea, don't put it next to the vegetable broth. They look identical at a glance.] I also added 2 tsp of curry powder, 2 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. I think I simmered the vegetables with lentils for about 35 minutes as they weren't yet cooked after the suggested 20 min. Oh, and to change things up a little, I weighed the couscous to the 250g called for. For the record, that equals more than 1 cup. I think I'll go back to a 1:1 ratio next time.

Well, the end result is tasty, filling and healthy. I did make an effort to up the spices as I knew that adding bland couscous would take the flavour down a notch. I think I could ramp the spices up even more next time, but there is a nice little trail of fire that lingers after a mouthful - not bad for someone who almost never improvs recipes, IMO. My next cooking goal is to get a better idea of how many servings a recipe will make when it doesn't outright tell you. The finished version of this one appears to feed 25+ people.... I may hate couscous and lentils in another week or so.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Spiced Red Lentil-Carrot Soup

Recipe #105: http://www.kraftcanada.com/en/recipes/spiced-red-lentil-carrot-soup-131081.aspx?pf=true

Guess who just remembered that she bought a 5 lb bag of carrots recently because they were a super good deal but has yet to eat almost any of them? Uh, me... So what to do? Well, it's cold outside (actually, today was a really balmy +9C because methinks we have a Chinook) and I need to feed myself something other than beef stew so... soup!

This recipe was a good choice for me for more reasons than just the 12 carrots required. It also gave me a chance to use up my lentils (and a good excuse to buy more), spices along with some of the ginger I still have from a previous recipe plus the cooking creme that I found in the freezer recently. I have no actual memory of putting it there... could have been in the freezer when I moved in 7 months ago... I should know by tomorrow morning if it was a bad idea.

As for tweakings (not twerkings, whatever those are), I actually did very few for this recipe. The carrots were a mix of skinnier ones and fatter ones (I AM NOT JUDGING HERE), but I tried to chop them all to be roughly the same size; I used a mixture of store brand lentils (Co-op if you live in the West and President's Choice Blue Menu because that's where I went shopping today); the chicken stock was No Salt Added (next time, I'll choose the reduced sodium version for a little more flavour) President's Choice Blue Menu and I used the whole tetra; the Philadelphia Cooking Creme was the original flavour (finders keepers can't moan if they don't find the flavour that the recipe calls for) so I threw in a chopped clove of garlic with the onion and ginger at the beginning to pretend it was garlic cooking creme. Mmmmmm, didn't quite get that part right. I think I'll add more garlic next time if I'm using original creme again - or just buy the one they tell you to use.

All in all, this was pretty straightforward although I always seem to at least double the prep time they suggest. I'm putting the "slow" in slow food... My version is slightly on the bland side (I haven't got a good enough sense of taste/smell to figure out exactly what's missing beyond what I deduced above) so I did hurl in a grandiose pinch of black pepper at the end which gave it a faint hint of more flavour. It is flavourful and has lots of healthy benefits, but if I make it another time for someone else to eat, I'll try the actual recipe version. Good thing I like carrots and soup!

[The bottom photo is an homage to my maternal grandmother who is holding me, her granddaughter, in the photo that her granddaughter is saluting with her grandmother's bowl. My grandma also gave me the cook book, "How To Cook Everything" back in 2000. I like to think she'd be proud of how far my culinary skills have come since then.]

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Red Wine Beef Stew with Potatoes and Green Beans

Recipe #104: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/dave-lieberman/red-wine-beef-stew-with-potatoes-and-green-beans-recipe/index.html

Guess what I got for my birthday this year? PURPLE sweet potatoes! Cheap and cheerful and PURPLE!! Thanks to the Mumsicle for helping me to "eat the rainbow".

I suppose I should say that I chose this recipe as a way to cook the sweet potatoes or for the fact that the red meat is a source of iron, but who am I kidding? I chose it for the wine! I think I need to cook with wine as often as I can afford it.

Mmmmm, wine....

I stuck fairly close to this recipe as it was laid out. The butter was salted (I only buy unsalted for fussy baking recipes that demand it), the salt was denomition-blessing-free ordinary table salt, I added 4 stalks of celery because I can, and the Yellow Tail Shiraz was delicious.... I used a 900 mL tetra pak of reduced-sodium chicken broth and the store was out of crushed tomatoes (am I missing some kind of crushed tomato recipe frenzy in Calgary right now?) so I bought a can of small cut tomatoes with garlic and olive oil (President's Choice - who am I to argue with the president of something?) and measured out 1 cup. I'll use the remainder in pasta or something. I opted for dried rosemary - primarily because I didn't know what to do with what would have been leftover had I bought fresh - so I used 2 tablespoons and threw in a haphazard half-capful of dried thyme, too. Lastly, I used 2 average PURPLE! sweet potatoes instead of the white options listed.

The beef cooking was an interesting process. I've never done it like that before, but it actually wasn't terribly complicated. One just has to make sure they're not too distracted by dishes or the internet. Hooray! I can now cook "intermediate" skill recipes. BUT, word to the wise: if your prep skills are on the slow-because-you-are-really-determined-to-chop-everything-to-death side like mine, you might end up having to do the prep one night and the cooking the next (as was the case for me this week). It's ok to do so because then you get to drink the wine for two nights :)

End result, you might be wondering...?

I AM A BEEF STEW COOKING CHAMPION! Flavourful, filling and I'm eating it again for breakfast. Anyone else want any? I've got lots...