Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vegetarian Lentil Soup

I recently reconnected with my friend Karen from high school on Facebook. Apparently she enjoys trying new recipes as much as I do, plus she has three little kids with different food preferences, so the more recipes they all like the better! Here's a recipe she posted, from Elaine on BBC.

I was a bit skeptical; I've tried cooking with lentils in the past and they never seemed to turn out right. (I think it was my technique; lentils need longer cooking over lower heat.) Plus the ingredients in this list didn't seem particularly flavorful (flavor in = flavor out). But, fortunately, I finally decided to give it a try, and boy was I glad. The flavors from the cloves and the bay leaves morph with everything else into a super tasty, satisfying stew.

Vegetarian Lentil Stew

  • 4 T oil
  • 1 c finely diced celery
  • 1 c finely diced carrots
  • 1/3 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cups lentils, washed
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 15 oz can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 small bay leaf
In a conventional soup pot, sauté the vegetables in oil until soft and translucent. Add lentils with remaining ingredients and cook over low heat for approximately 2 hours. Serves 8-10

Comments & Modifications:
  • There are lots of different kinds of lentils out there, but the regular cheap green ones were fine.
  • Only 1/3 cup of onion? Hah. I added a full cup and it was great. Plus, that used up exactly half of the massive onion I got from Produce Junction.
  • I added a bit more than a cup each of chopped carrots and celery, and next time I think I'd add more, maybe 1 1/2 to 2 cups. They kind of get drowned in lentils.
  • Similarly, I'd probably double the amount of stewed tomatoes. Which I did cut into smaller pieces, but next time I'd do that before adding them to the soup instead of after, to reduce fishing-around time.
  • Some chopped zucchini might work well with this. More veggies are always good.
  • I added only 1 1/2 tsp of salt, but it could have used the full two teaspoons. Karen said that the ratio of sugar to salt was more important than the absolute quantity of each, so I probably won't mess around with that too much in the future.
  • My stove is apparently very weak on low, so the stew turned out underdone. Apparently Karen's stove puts this at a light simmer on low, so I'll adjust the heat next time. Even with undercooked lentils it was still enjoyable!
I will definitely be making this again in the future! Tasty, cheap, and healthy! What more could I ask for?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cauliflower Soup

I made this recipe right after discovering Produce Junction. Mmm, inexpensive veggies.

Cauliflower Soup

Comments & Modifications:
  • Cauliflower can be finnicky, so I only used half a head since I wasn't sure whether we would like the soup.
  • I didn't put in nearly as much milk as was called for, and it was fine. I like thick soup, it says on my spoon better.
  • A dash each of garlic powder and onion powder was fine; doing it the real way might taste better, but laziness is nice too.
  • No butter! It didn't really need it, either.
  • Also, no toast. Maybe the toast would have been nice, though.

Verdict: This was good, with a nice creamy-salty-sweet thing going. The cauliflower flavor really goes with the parmesan. It was a bit more work than I like for something that won't be enough for a full meal, but it would be fun to make for a first course for company.

Crockpot Pizza Soup

Pizza soup! What a good idea, all the yumminess of pizza condensed into a bowl of nice, hot soup. I took some liberties with this recipe, and it was totally worth it.

Crockpot Pizza Soup

Comments & Modifications:
  • Instead of using pizza sauce from a jar (yuck), I took a 28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes and ran them through the food processor until just a bit chunky. This has been my new thing lately; it tastes so much fresher than the jar stuff, plus I can customize it with whatever flavor add-ins I happen to need.
  • I think we added water at the end to thin it down, until it looked right.
  • I used red pepper, not green, because they were the same price and red tastes better.
  • I don't like mushrooms. We did put in about half of what the recipe calls for, but Dan diced them up so tiny that you couldn't even tell they were there. It was perfect. :) Next time we'll put in all the mushrooms.
  • No need for chopped tomatoes when you start with whole peeled tomatoes, eh?
  • We used some sort of cooked sausage from the supermarket, I can't remember what.
  • I put the pepperoni in the microwave for a bit to get some of the fat out, which helped, but there was still a sheen of oil on the soup after it was done.
  • No pasta for us.

Verdict: This was really good, like comfort food good. Next time I'd add all the mushrooms, and maybe more peppers, and maybe some other veggies if I can think of some that would work. The sausage didn't add a lot of flavor, so I think next time I'd use spicy sausage and put less in. Because if I can help it, there will definitely be a next time.

Southwest Chicken Stew

I am so ridiculous. It's been so long since I last posted that I can't remember anything about the recipes I've tried since then. Oh well, better to write down something than nothing . . .

Southwest Chicken Stew

Comments & Modifications:
  • This was in a Giant grocery store ad. This is probably not be relevant.
  • I think I pretty much followed the recipe. It's been so long, I have no idea.

Verdict: I do, however, remember that this was okay but not great. I liked the potatoes with the mexican flavors, but somehow the chicken didn't work for me. It was too dry or something. I think we ate most of it and threw the rest away. I bet it would be awesome with beef strips.