Easy Slow Cooker Green Lentil Soup

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Lentil soup has been on my mind for the past couple months. For some reason, the thought of cooking lentils was intimidating, since my family didn’t eat them growing up and I was never taught how to cook them. To my delight, an article showed up in my email inbox entitled, “Lentil Soup Without a Recipe”. This was just the motivation I needed to start thinking about actually making this soup. While cooking soup on the stove-top is my usual go-to cooking method, I wanted to use my slow cooker to be able to leave it alone and bring that heavenly homemade soup aroma into my apartment while I worked. After browsing a few recipes, I was confident I’d be able to conjure up the exact soup I was longing for. I must admit, this was one of the easiest recipes and requires minimal prep. Feel free to experiment with adding your favorite vegetables and spices!

Easy Slow Cooker Green Lentil Soup

Inspired by Food 52 and these two recipes

Ingredients:

4 cups water

4 cups vegetable broth

2 cups green lentils, rinsed

1 sweet potato peeled and chopped

3 carrots peeled and chopped

3 ribs of celery, chopped

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely grated

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 bunches kale, washed and chopped

3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley

Directions:

Add all ingredients to slow cooker except for kale and Italian parsley. Wait to add these until the last 10 minutes before serving. Set heat at low if heating for 7-8 hours, or set at high if heating for 4-5 hours. Serve warm with your favorite crusty bread or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro!

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Food for thought: Which is your favorite color lentil to cook with?

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A Celebration of Summer

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Another holiday is upon us. The last of the “summer” holidays, celebrating the American labor movement. As we head to the beach, mountains or relax at home, this weekend serves as an appropriate time to reflect. I have written about reflecting in the past and feel it is important for mind/body health. Take a minute to reflect and be grateful for everything that has happened over the summer, embrace the change of season that’s about to make its way across the county and focus your mind and body on your goals and ambitions for the last four months of the year.

Last week I started class, however, this semester is different. This is my LAST class of graduate school! Yes, it is true! After four years of balancing work and school, I will have my Masters in Nutrition in December. The experiences I have encountered while completing assignments has molded me into who I am today. I started grad school for the purpose of learning. There was always the question of “What will my practicum project be?” Or “What are you going to do with your degree?” I can say that those questions have been answered along the way and will continue to be as my path unfolds.

If you’ve followed me over the summer, you can imagine how enriching working with Elena from Biscuits and Such has been. Networking with so many amazing people while researching this gorgeous state, becoming even more comfortable and confident in the kitchen with recipe development and developing my voice on social media has opened doors I could only dream about before. This practicum isn’t just a project anymore, it is becoming life!

As summer winds down, (although here in NC it sure doesn’t feel like it!) we’ll be shifting our focus from okra, green beans and tomatoes to sweet potatoes, greens, and apples. Ok, I have to admit I’ve been eating sweet potatoes all summer long, but apples….now that’s a food that proclaims “it’s fall” like no other!

This morning my boyfriend, Michael and I, visited the Lenoir County Farmers Market and saw first hand how the produce is winding down as we start to transition seasons. Peppers were on my mind and luckily there were still a few waiting for me. While I was making the stuffed peppers tonight I realized how my ingredients were from all around NC. The lamb, from Rainbow Meadow Farms purchased from the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. The zucchini and red onion from the Midtown Farmers Market in Raleigh. The rosemary from my backyard. The corn, peppers and tomatoes from Lenoir County Farmers Market in Kinston. This cumulative dish illustrates my summer. Traveling from Raleigh to Kinston every other weekend to visit Michael, shopping at farmers markets most Saturday mornings, and experimenting with flavors, recipes and photography. It has been such a rewarding experience and I am ever so grateful to have this opportunity, while looking forward for what’s to come!

Lamb and Rosemary Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 3-4

 Ingredients:

1/2 pound ground lamb

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 sprigs rosemary, minced

4 medium bell peppers – your preference in color

1 ear white corn, boiled 3-5 minutes and cut off the cob

1 medium zucchini, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

cinnamon, dried basil, crushed red pepper to taste

ghee or butter

Optional sauce: Stewed tomatoes using Mother Earth’s Homegrown Beer or tomato based sauce of choice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Rinse the peppers and halve, cutting from stem down, discard the core and set in greased baking dish face down. Bake in oven for 15-20 min until soft enough to be pierced with a fork.

3. Meanwhile, heat a medium sauce pan to medium high heat and coat with butter or ghee.

4. Saute the onions, garlic and rosemary until the onions start to turn clear or slightly brown.

5. Add the ground lamb and spices, brown 2-3 minutes.

6. Add zucchini and corn to mixture, turn heat to low for a light simmer. Taste to adjust spices as needed.

7. Once peppers are done, flip over and fill peppers with mixture.

8. Bake in oven for another 3-5 minutes.

9. Enjoy!

Optional sauce: Stewed tomatoes or tomato based sauce of choice

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Food for thought: What is your favorite way to stuff peppers? How are you celebrating Labor Day Weekend?

 

Cocoa Banana “Ice Cream”

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Even though winter is blasting its arctic chill through the air, sometimes a cold, smooth, creamy, chocolatey treat is desired. So what does one use to make a dairy free dessert without coconut, almond, or soy?  Bananas of course!! This simple recipe is one of my favorites; I hope you find it delightfully satisfying.

Cocoa Banana “Ice Cream”

Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana (break in half or slice before freezing)

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Dash of ground cinnamon

Dash of cayenne pepper

Cocoa nibs

Directions:

  1. Place frozen banana in food processor and blend to break up.
  2. Add cocoa powder, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
  3. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  4. Serve in bowl sprinkled with cocoa nibs.
  5. Enjoy!

Optional: blend in 1 tablespoon of your favorite natural nut butter for added protein.

Food for thought: Do you have a favorite “ice cream” ingredient? I’d love to hear, please share your comments below!

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Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes

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On one of the coldest Saturdays of the year in North Carolina, I was determined to drive to a farmers market to stock up on needed essentials, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and carrots with ginger from Two Chicks Farm. Much to my surprise and delight, I stumbled upon a booth whose farmer grew Jerusalem artichokes. These little sunchokes resembled ginger and a root vegetable all in one. The farmer explained to me they were from the sunflower family and I could prepare them like a potato. Roasting sounded quite tempting, as I had never laid eyes on these little tubers before.

I was excited with my find and started researching what exactly a Jerusalem artichoke was. I quickly learned that they are not from Jerusalem, rather a native to North America. They grow in the winter months in the central and eastern part of the US. They are rich in nutrients such as Vitamin C, Iron, Thiamin and Potassium. Even though it is considered a starchy vegetable, it has a low glycemic index due to the amount of inulin it contains. Inulin is a carbohydrate that doesn’t breakdown in the human body and may cause GI upset, namely gas, if eaten in excess. As I researched more, I came across that particular tidbit of information in almost every website I visited. I felt as though I had my fair share of warnings, with the ‘Buyer Beware’ theme floating across Google searches that included the words ‘Jerusalem artichokes’.

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Despite the mixed reviews these vegetables received, I was eager to try them. I wanted to know more about their nutty flavor, and creamy texture, apparently similar to that of a globe artichoke. When I decided to roast them with thyme, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper, I couldn’t have been more pleased. These delicate vegetables were light and creamy, had a taste of both artichoke and sunflower. I did abide with the warnings and limited my consumption to a small helping with each meal. I would purchase them again and highly recommend them to anyone who loves to be fascinated with new foods. Since I am a soup lover, these little tubers will be turned into soup the next chance I get. Bon appétit!

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Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes

¼ cup melted coconut oil

½ tablespoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Rinse and scrub artichokes clean with water (no need to peel), pat dry with paper towel. Slice in half or in thirds, depending on size. Place in bowl.
  2. Add melted coconut oil, thyme, garlic powder. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir to combine flavors.
  3. Place on baking sheet and roast in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, turning halfway through with spatula.
  4. Enjoy as a side dish or a delicious fiber packed snack!

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

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As we head into the winter months, making a pot of hearty, spicy soup may just do the trick to warm your body and please your palate. Creating a soup with odds and ends in your fridge along with some unfamiliar ingredients from your spice rack may give you that confidence that yes, you ARE a fabulous cook! It’s a great way to experiment with tastes and textures of foods you are longing to eat together in one spoonful. For me, the taste of carrot and sweet potato crossed my mind. I share with you the results. It will be sure to warm your body through.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

4 ¼ cups Free Range Chicken Broth Low Sodium, divided

1 yellow onion, chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you aren’t a fan of ‘heat’ in your soup, I would reduce to a pinch)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Optional garnish:

¼ cup raw pecans

1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Heat ¼ cup broth in a six quart pot over medium heat. Once heated, add in the onions and garlic. Stir the mixture occasionally until the onions are softened.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, bay leaf and 3 cups broth. Cover and turn to medium high heat to start simmering. Once simmering, turn heat down to medium and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add remaining spices. Simmer another 5-7 minutes until potatoes and carrots are soft enough to pierce with a fork.
  4. Add last cup of broth, simmer 5 minutes.
  5. Take out bay leaf.
  6. Use a ladle to scoop soup into blender, filling one third of the way full.
  7. Use oven mitt to hold lid down and blend until smooth.
  8. Enjoy!

Optional garnish: Heat iron skillet, add olive oil and brown pecans 3-5 minutes.Top soup with pecans.

Winter Vegetable Soup

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Colder weather is upon us, which means soup season is here. There is nothing like the smell of garlic and onion sizzling in olive oil, starting the base of a hearty soup. Soup is one of those one-pot meals that once cooked, can last for days with the same sense of delight and satisfaction when eating it, as the first day. Not to mention your kitchen will have the lingering aroma of carrots, celery and herbs for a day or two.

Being brought up on canned soups, the thought of making soup from scratch was always a little daunting. Recipes were always a must to start cooking anything, making my own modifications as seemed fit. After recognizing typical ingredients and serving sizes of herbs and spices in soup recipes, I decided to embark on my own soup making adventure. The following recipe is the result of my first home-made soup recipe that I am able to call my own. I am thrilled to be able to share it with you!

Winter Vegetable Soup

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

Turkey:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound ground turkey

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ cup low sodium free range chicken broth

Soup:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped

1 pound celery, chopped

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

3 ¾ cup low sodium free range chicken broth, divided

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried parsley

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon dried basil

Dash cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

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Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Once heated, brown the ground turkey, about 8-10 minutes.  When browned, add oregano, basil, salt and broth. Simmer over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
  2. As the turkey is browning, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a six quart pot. Once heated, add in the onions and garlic. Stir the mixture occasionally until the onions are softened.
  3. Stir in the carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, 1 bay leaf and 1 ¾ cup broth to onion mixture. Stir occasionally and simmer about 5 minutes.IMG_0062
  4. Add in the remaining herbs and spices, keep at a simmer until potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once potatoes are soft, add in and stir turkey into vegetable mixture.
  6. Add the remaining 2 cups broth to the pot and simmer on low-medium heat 10-15 minutes to meld the flavors.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Enjoy!

** Add chopped mushrooms to soup when re- heating to give extra earthiness to the dish.

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