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A hub for all things to do with design, furniture painting, photography, style, event planning [and some foodie bits for good measure].  

Simple dinner staples: Red Lentils with ras el hanout and rainbow carrots.

 
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Yes, this may look like baby food to the untrained eye.

But in reality, in this mush of food lies a perfect combination of red lentils, rainbow carrots, onion, garlic, and ras el hanout.  The last ingredient has become one of my most coveted ingredients [thanks to this guy], mostly because it turns any blah dish into a thing of beauty [and tastiness].

I threw this together one late night midweek, when I wasn't in the mood to cook, but also had no interest in just eating chips and salsa for dinner.  Out came a completely simple, but hearty dish [or side accompaniment to grilled chicken, pork, fish, etc. etc.].  I highly recommend trying this the next time you need to throw something together quickly, or just have a hankering for something left of center. Also, I can't say this enough...absolutely invest in ras el hanout- it's essential for this dish!

Recipe:

1 cup red lentils

1/2 cup diced carrots [I love using

rainbow carrots

, mainly for their color, but also for their sweetness]

1/4 cup diced onions

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ras el hanout [or more to your preference]

1 teaspoon olive oil

3 cups water

salt and pepper, to taste

In a small pot, heat the olive oil over medium and cook the onions and garlic, for a couple minutes until softened. Add the ras el hanout, and water and heat.  Once simmering, add the lentils and bring to a boil.  Cook at a simmer for 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in your favorite bowl.

Serves 4

 

My foodie-talk hero: Alex Guarnaschelli.

 
 

For years, I watched cooking shows religiously.  I basically learned how to cook as a teen by following the

Barefoot Contessa

on the Food Network. These days, I do love me some Top Chef, and while I cook, I'll have the occasional throwback episode of

GiadaIna or Nigella

[they're like my long time girlfriends] on in the background.

One reason I stopped watching most cooking shows is because after a while, the TV personalities start to all sound nearly identical and it becomes somewhat monotonous. A college drinking game could be made out of the 

Sandra Lee

 show- ALL she ever says is that her food has "great flavor."  There's literally no other phrase she can think of to describe her food and it drives me insane! I literally avoid using 'flavor' in my everyday vernacular because of this. And don't even get me started on her semi-homemade 

Kwanzaa cake

!! [mini-rant]

My love for cooking shows has been revived with most recent addiction, chef

Alex Guarnaschelli's

show, Alex's Day Off.  

She's a celebrity in the culinary world, and is currently the executive chef of two New York City restaurants,

Butter

and

The Darby

, but I so dearly hope she gets into the food-writing business!

What I find so refreshing about Alex's show is her incredible way with words.  There's nothing like smelling and tasting a dish to truly familiarize yourself with cooking a meal, but when a screen comes between you and the cook, the only two ways to 'taste' the food is through sight and sound.  Alex tells a story about the ingredients she uses and the recipes she cooks that's unlike anyone I've ever seen on a culinary show [with the possible exception of Nigella Lawson- she's fantastic!].

Alex has a fantastic way with metaphors.  She'll compare mozzarella to a "quiet friend at a cocktail party, who needs a couple drinks before they get interesting."  When describing the making of dulce de leche, she compares the process to "a conservative person in their cardigan sweater who minutes later rips off that sweater to reveal themselves." I absolutely love it! My favorite line of hers is "when you pull up your dress just to show a little bit of slip" to describe the bit of cheese that oozes out of a pressed sandwich. Some might find these descriptions a bit garish, but I think they're fantastic! Her way with words gives such an alluring visual of her food, and makes me want to jump right into the kitchen.

I've been waiting for Chef Guarnaschelli to come out with a cookbook, or frankly, any kind of book, because I'm fairly sure she could make burnt toast mouthwatering!

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola Bars.



I may never buy another another granola bar ever again.  I did some digging around, and compiled ideas from various recipes, eventually evolving them into my own concoction.  I modeled these after my favorite store bought variety. Naturally [or well, unnaturally] store bought bars have all kinds of ingredients that aren't necessary or good for you, despite them all having the predisposed idea of being healthy. I used only ingredients I had around the house, and lucky for me, I keep a good variety of nuts in stock [not a reference to me or my family's insanity], as well as seeds and grains.

I'm insanely proud of these bars, since they're incredibly filling, healthy and delicious. 


  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola Bars
Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds [optional]
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites, whisked [optional, but acts as a binder, which allows you to use less butter]
  • 1/2 cup agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter [I use Skippy because I'm still 10 years old, but natural peanut butter would amp up the health factor in this recipe - natural = less sugar]
  • 1/4 semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions


Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly grease an 8 by 8-inch baking dish and set aside.
In a small saucepan melt butter with honey over low heat, stirring.
In a large bowl stir together oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, cinnamon and salt. Pour butter mixture over oat mixture and stir until combined well. Add the egg whites and stir until combined.
On a large baking sheet, [if you have a silpat sheet, use it!] spread the granola evenly in a thin layer. Bake, stirring every 5-10 minutes to keep from sticking or burning, until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. 
Cool the granola and place in a large bowl.
Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is at a boil. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the granola, stirring to coat well. Cool slightly and add in chocolate chips. Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish and let cool completely and harden. Cut the mixture into bars and serve at room temperature.