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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

 

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.

Easy Comfort Food: Hodge Podge Macaroni + Cheese.

With the blustering winds that brought chilly weather prematurely to Atlanta for the past week, I've been on a comfort food kick, stocking up my fridge with my favorite soups, stews, and most importantly with a big platter of macaroni and cheese.  There's just nothing like homemade, and it's insanely simple to throw together.  The secret is in the cheese, and this is a perfect time to get rid of the last bits left in the fridge [hence the name 'hodge podge', which then naturally gives me a good excuse to buy more! 

Hodge Podge Macaroni + Cheese.

Béchamel Sauce [taken from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home]

[this will make more sauce than you need, which I like to reserve and use later in the week for a baked chicken dish or broccoli-cheese casserole]


3 TBsp unsalted butter
3 TBsp all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 TBsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp finely chopped thyme
pinch of cayenne pepper

My added ingredients:

1 tsp white truffle oil [optional, not everyone loves truffles- but I can't get enough!]
12-14 oz cheese, shredded and/or crumbled
[I happened to have sharp yellow cheddar and goat cheese in the fridge, so that's what I used, but I've literally used every cheese I can think of [with the exception of a blue or gorgonzola- they're too overpowering to mix with other cheeses]

1/2 lb elbow macaroni


Melt the butter in a medium saucepan [I use my Le Creuset cast iron braiser] over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust the heat as needed so that the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the béchamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes; move the whisk over the bottom and into the corners of the pan to be sure the béchamel doesn't burn. In the last 15 minutes of reducing the sauce, bring water to a boil and cook the elbow macaroni to al dente.


If you have a fine mesh strainer, strain the béchamel into another bowl, and then return it to the saucepan. Straining is optional since it helps to create a more velvety [not velveeta!] consistency.  Add the truffle oil and cheese and whisk to combine. Add enough sauce to the macaroni [not all of it, as this is a double recipe for sauce] and you're done!

I sometimes like to add buttered bread crumbs to the top and bake off the macaroni in the oven for several minutes, but this time, I was starving and just dug right in.  Yum.




Layering Flavors: Turkey Meatballs with marsala sauteed mushrooms, wilted arugula and brown rice with a spicy parsley sauce.


Whenever I go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, I'm always hyper aware of two things: the presentation and the depth of flavors. I'm the type of cook who loves throwing things together on the fly and as quickly as possible.  That sort of cooking typically involves a lot of one pot [or pan] cooking, and not the most artful presentation when all is said and done. 

I do occasionally get inspired to push my usual boundaries a bit and try creating slightly more complex meals.  I still made this recipe off the cuff, with ingredients I already had in the fridge and garden. When I was making this dish, I realized as I was jotting down notes, how tough it must be to write a cook book with more complex recipes.  This was fairly simple, but since I used a number of ingredients and cooked them all separately, it was fairly laborious to write down.  So here's the run through of my new dish and I apologize for the wordiness in advance!

Turkey Meatballs with marsala sauteed mushrooms, wilted arugula and brown rice with a spicy parsley sauce. 

Ingredients

2 cups arugula, cleaned and dried
1 cup brown rice


For the mushrooms:
2 TBsp unsalted butter
1 TBsp olive oil
1 shallot, diced [with some removed for meatballs]
3-5 garlic cloves, minced [with some removed for meatballs]
1lb. white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup marsala wine
1/4 cup water [or chicken broth, I was just out at the time]

For the meatballs:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 egg
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon coarse ground mustard
1 TBsp of diced shallots [see above]
1 tsp of minced garlic [see above]
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon parsley, minced


For the spicy parsley sauce:
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, cleaned and stems removed
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes [or more if you like the heat]
salt and pepper, to taste


Directions

Make the brown rice according to directions on box [takes about 45 minutes so you want to take care of this first- unless you're using instant]

When cooking the mushrooms, find the widest pan you have, since the mushrooms shouldn't crowd the pan.  I actually still don't have a large enough pan to cook a decent sized amount of mushrooms, so you can always cook them in batches, and in that case, just split the butter and oil in half and reserve half the shallots and garlic for the second batch.

Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat and add the shallots and garlic, allowing them to soften for 2-3 minutes. Raise heat to medium high and add the mushrooms, making sure all sides are coated by the butter mixture.  Leave them alone and allow them to sauté until they begin to brown, 5-10 minutes. After at least five minutes, move the mushrooms around allow both sides to brown.

Remove them from the pan [I placed them in my warming drawer, but you can also just cover with foil to retain the heat] and add the marsala wine and water, scraping the brown bits off the bottom and allowing it to thicken, about 15 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, start on the meatballs. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat and combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and form into small, golf sized balls. Once oil is hot, add to the pan and brown, turning them every so often to ensure an even crust, about 10 minutes total. 


While the meatballs brown, put together the spicy parsley sauce. [I used my food processor for this, but you can create this with a good knife and a whisk as well.] Place all ingredients, except for oil in the food processor and pulse a few times until combined.  Then drizzle oil through top while the processor is running, just until the ingredients combine, about 10-20 seconds. 

Once the sauce has thickened slightly, pour it over the mushrooms, reserving a bit in the pan.  Place the arugula in the pan with the remaining sauce and allow it to wilt slightly.  

Then, all that's left to do is assemble all the ingredients.  Check out how I layered everything below! 

Serves 2-3