Ultimate Lentil Soup

Forget it, I’m going to keep making and posting soup recipes until this stupid weather breaks or I die.  Whichever comes first.

Slow Cooker Revolution is on a roll with what it touts as “Ultimate Lentil Soup.”  I don’t really like lentil soup.  I don’t hate it but it’s not my go-to.  Jeeps loves it though, and he’s been killing himself shoveling snow so I wanted to make it for him.  It didn’t hurt that the recipe called for bacon and mushrooms.

Well, friends, to cut to the chase: this soup is tits.  Unbelievable flavor.  I snuck in a can of black beans toward the end and the country-style texture of beans and lentils rocks.  The mushrooms are killer.  The chard is a treat.  Bacon makes it all sexy.  I stirred some frozen sweet corn into the kids’ bowls to cool it off.  And they ate it. 

As my friend Art said, “This is not your mother’s lentil soup.”

Lentil Soup

Ultimate Not-Your-Mother’s Lentil Soup

  • 2 onions, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4-5 slices bacon
  • 3-5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2-3 large portobello mushroom caps, gills removed and cut into 1/2″ pieces (the gills scrape right out with a spoon.  You do this to keep the soup from getting muddy)
  • 1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and leaves cut 1/2″ thick

Microwave onions, garlic, oil, tomato paste, porcini mushrooms and thyme in bowl, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir chicken broth, vegetable broth, bacon, carrots, portobello mushrooms, lentils and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high 5-7 hours or low 9-11 hours, until lentils are tender.

Stir in black beans and chard, cover and cook on high until chard is tender, 20-30 minutes.  Discard bacon and bay leaves.  Serve.

Sicilian Chick Pea Soup

As smartass Frank pointed out, the soup itself is Sicilian, not the chick peas.  Most Italian soups feature cannellini beans but in Sicily, chick peas are the favored legume. The recipe comes from the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook, Volume 2.  You can make it in 7 hours in the slow cooker, or in 45 minutes on the stove top.  It’s not very attractive, but it’s yum.  It features fennel, garlic, oregano and red pepper.  It also calls for anchovies, which I did not use, and escarole, which I did not have.

Stove Top Version

  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 8-oz cans chick peas, dried and rinsed
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 head escarole, chopped coarse, or 1/2 bag of frozen spinach

Heat olive oil in soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add fennel and saute 7-8 minutes.  I found the soup very savory and kept looking for a sweet note.  I think if you really get the fennel caramelized it will bring that sweetness.

Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes, saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add chick peas and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes.  Add spinach or escarole and cook until wilted, another 15 minutes.

Serve with a glug of olive oil and a big dollop of parmesan cheese

Slow Cooker Version

  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • 8 oz dried chick peas
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 head escarole, chopped coarse, or 1/2 bag of frozen spinach

Microwave fennel, oil, garlic, oregano, anchovies and papper flakes in bowl, stirring occasionally, until fennel is softened, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Stir in chick peas and broth.  Cover and cook until chick peas are tender – 10 to 11 hours on low or 7 to 8 hours on high.

Stir in escarole or spinach, cover and cook another 15 minutes.

Serve with olive oil and parmesan.

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Herbed Cottage Cheese Biscuits

Everyone is set with their turkey chili, turkey tetrazzini, turkey soup, and turkey so forth, so to go with all your recycled turkey goodies I have some herbed cottage cheese biscuits.

Are you like me?  Do you buy a thing of cottage cheese with the full intent of eating it, and it’s still there, unopened, weeks later?  I’m mortified to tell you exactly how long this container was in my fridge and I peeled back the seal expecting to find a science experiment.  But it was fine.  Now that the seal was broken I had to use it immediately, so to go with my turkey minestrone soup, I made these biscuits.

The first batch I baked at 450 for 12 minutes and they got burned on the bottom and were under-done on the inside.  So the next batch I put into the oven at 450, but then immediately turned the heat down to 425 and baked about 21 minutes.  Still slightly gooey in the middle.  So this is one of those things you might have to fiddle around with.  But they taste great.

By the way, what is it about putting hot biscuits into a towel-lined bowl that makes you feel so goofy?

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Herbed Cottage Cheese Biscuits

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp dried chives
  • 1 tbsp dried dill weed
  • 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 5 tbsp butter, cold, cut into pieces
  • 1 16-oz container cottage cheese

Makes about 18 biscuits – some for now, some to freeze.

Preheat oven to 450.  Line baking sheet with parchment or silpat mat, or spray with Pam

In large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and herbs

Add butter, and with pastry cutter or two knives, work through the flour until it is in small, pea-size clumps (a food processor also works but I didn’t feel like breaking it out)

Add cottage cheese and mix together until just combined (the dough is not going to make you feel good, it’s sort of a mess, just deal)

With a soupspoon, drop onto baking sheet

Put into oven, turn heat down to 425, bake 20-21 minutes until golden.

Keep warm in towel-lined bowl.

Be goofy.

Pumpkin Chia Muffins

It’s the time of year when you feel like you should be doing something with pumpkin.  This combined with the fact that I suddenly have a teenager in the house who is getting up ten minutes before she has to leave for school and thinking she can just rush out the door with nothing in her stomach and…

(Hand over mouth)…..MOM?!

Anyway, I put the two problems together and searched out a pumpkin breakfast muffin recipe.  I found this one from Dr. Oz’s site and I have made them four times in four weeks.  Right now I have a double batch going, they’re that popular.

These have no end of good things in them, and you can tweak the recipe to get as many good things in there as you like.  The original recipe, doubled, calls for 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup of white flour.  But you can make this into 3 cups of virtually any kind of grains or flours.  I mean literally.  Anything.  You might not have the fluffiest, most domed muffins, but I’ve never made the recipe with the same flour twice and it always works and tastes great.  So tonight, for example, my 3 cups are made of:

1/2 cup flaxseed meal

1/2 cup almond meal

1/2 cup white flour

1 1/2 cups wheat flour

Dr. Oz’s recipe also called for olive oil; I subbed coconut oil because I am an addict.  I also used regular sugar instead of the agave because agave isn’t something I keep around.  You can tweak this to your heart’s content depending on your religious beliefs.

I also added dark chocolate chips because duh.

Pumpkin Chia Muffins

(Single batch recipe below, makes 12 muffins plus an annoying dollop of batter you don’t know what to do with)

  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup whole-wheat or whole-grain flour plus 1/2 cup white flour (OR 1 1/2 cups of whatever flours/meals you like)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (ginger!  not the garlic powder!  don’t ask!)
  • 2 tsp baking soda (when using almond meal and flaxseed meal, I throw another 1/2 tsp in)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 can (16-oz) pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (or olive oil, or canola)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar (or 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sugar; I made it a scant 1/2 cup because I was using chocolate chips)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (Optional)
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another.

Combine dry and wet and stir in chocolate chips.

Bake 25-30 minutes until tester comes out dry.

Serve as they’re flying out the door to the bus stop.

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Salted Caramel Pumpkin Seeds

My neighbor Jaime did this to me so I have to do it to you.  It’s her fault.  Don’t blame me.  That’s all I have to say.

Happy Halloween.

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Seeds

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed and pat dry
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon each, brown sugar and granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add seeds and toss to coat evenly. Spread on the baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.

Bake seeds until lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir in sugars and salt; cook until deep golden brown, 1-2 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and stir in seeds; coat with buttery caramel mixture and cook an additional minute.

Remove from heat and let cool before serving.

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World’s Best Gingerbread. Really.

The other day called for Gingerbread.  I hung up the phone.  The day called back and said “Chocolate Gingerbread.”

I said, “Speaking.”

IMG_5133It’s fall, it’s a thing with me to make gingerbread when it’s red and orange and golden outside and I’m wearing my boots.  Usually my go-to is Laurie Colwin’s recipe but I was in the mood to expand my horizons and see what else was out there in the world.

I found the world’s best at a blog called The English Kitchen.

Now I do realize that when you throw around words like “world” and “best” then you better damn well deliver.  This recipe delivers.  If this isn’t the world’s best damn gingerbread, it’s pretty damn close.  It’s everything the author says it is:  “no-fail, bakes up deliciously moist, the perfect blend of spice and heat, and it tastes better and better with each day that passes.”

The author gives her gingerbread a lemon glaze.  I put my twist on it by adding cocoa powder.  Frankly it needs nothing.  It needs nothing and gives everything.  That is the world’s best gingerbread.

World’s Best Gingerbread (really) from “The English Kitchen”

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaping tbsp Hershey Special Dark Cocoa Powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 dark treacle and 1/2 cup Golden syrup (I have no idea what treacle is; I already had Lyle’s Golden syrup from when I make Laurie Colwin’s recipe, but only just 1/2 cup.  I used 1/4 cup molasses for the treacle to get to the 3/4 cup.  The English Kitchen says you can use all molasses, so don’t sweat it)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter and flour a 9 inch square baking tin, or spray with Pam.

Add the treacle/molasses and syrup to the boiling water along with the baking soda.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the flour, spices, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg.  Add the cooled syrup mixture to the creamed mixture.  Stir in the dry ingredients only to blend and note this is very liquid batter, don’t be alarmed!

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until well risen and the top springs back when lightly touched, or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve warm, or pick at it in the middle of the night.  It’s divine.

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Swiss Chard with Balsamic Butter

Another boom of Swiss Chard from the CSA and from my garden is making me scramble for recipes.  This one comes from Susie Middleton’s Fast, Fresh & Green which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest veggie recipe books around.  I like that it uses both the leaves and the stems; especially if you have “Bright Lights” chard – with its array of jewel-like colors, it makes a very pretty dish, as well as a tasty one.

So yesterday I made a huge batch of Debbie’s vanilla-and-cardamom baked squash, using a Butternut from the CSA and two Delicatas from my garden. Tonight I made it into soup, using the basic two-two-two recipe for all my Cream of Whatever soups, and it was outstanding with the Swiss chard on the side, with some garlic bread.  Jeeps actually put the chard on the bread and ate it like a crostini.

A perfect Autumnal Equinox supper, if I do say so.

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Susie Middleton’s Swiss Chard with Balsamic Butter

  • 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar (mine is this fabulous strawberry balsamic that Jeeps’ partner Steve gave us for Christmas)
  • 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard with stems
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil (really try to get peanut oil, it’s worth it)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts (optional; Jeeps doesn’t like them so I kept them on the side)
  • Kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar.  Set aside

Wash and dry the chard.  Pull or cut the stems away from the chard leaves.  Cut or rip the leaves into 2- to 3-inch pieces.  Slice the stems crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces.

In a small skillet or pan, toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Really babysit them because they will burn in a second.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add the chard stems with a pinch of salt and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.

Add the chard leaves and 1/2 tsp Kosher salt.  Using tongs, toss the chard leaves in the pan until wilted down.  Scrape the balsamic mixture into the pan, stir, and remove the pan from the heat.  Add the butter and toss and stir until it’s melted.  Fold in half the pine nuts.

Transfer the chard, stems, and cooking liquid to a small serving bowl and garnish with remaining pine nuts.