2 Meals, 1 Pan

In the interest of using up some leftovers today, I happily created both my lunch to eat at home and dinner to carry to work. In the fridge I found some already chopped onions and peppers as well a box of sliced button mushrooms that needed to be used up before they turned slimy. Additionally, I had a ton of leftover couscous and some lentil soup that I was getting tired of eating. So into the skillet it goes!

Saute until lightly browned and the mushrooms release their juices:
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 box of sliced mushrooms
about 3/4 cup of sliced bell peppers

Add:
2 ladles full of lentil soup, draining off as much of the broth as possible
Heat through.

For lunch at home, I served it over some of that couscous with half of a diced avocado (they were on sale this week for $.49!) and a generous scoop of salsa. An apple for dessert and I’m all set!

For dinner at work, I mixed it with the rest of the avocado and used it with a dollop of garlic hummus to top a microwaved sweet potato.

Yummmm… who says healthy eating is hard?

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Green Paste

Today I whipped up some easy healthy soup to (I hope) make up for next week’s impending birthday cake and Christmas cookie binge. One of my coworkers likes to joke that all I eat is green paste, and I’m certainly not proving her wrong tonight. Here’s what I cobbled together in about thirty minutes today.  It isn’t pretty to look at, but it is pretty tasty.

My ugliest meal yet!

My ugliest meal yet!

Green Paste Soup

Ingredients:
1 medium bunch of kale or other greens, coarsely chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 can butter beans, drained, or any other white bean
3 small onions, or one giant one, or two mediums, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 or more cloves garlic, peeled
whatever herbs you have hanging around
salt and pepper
2 Tbls soy sauce
1/2c whole wheat couscous

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (about half full). Add bay leaf, onions, garlic. Simmer 10 – 15 minutes.
2. Add kale, herbs, and tomato paste, simmer 10 more minutes.
3. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
4. Add beans and turn heat back up to low, adding soy sauce and other seasonings to taste. If it tastes too acidic, add a spoonful of sugar.
5. Dump in the couscous, stir well, turn off the heat and put a lid on it. Let stand for 5-10 minutes until the couscous is tender.

Enjoy!  I garnished it with some pepitas.  It was also good with nutritional yeast and a dash of hot sauce.

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

Earlier this week I got a happy little surprise at work:  a $40 gift card for Giant Eagle for doing a good job!  I don’t live near a Giant Eagle, but just a short bus ride away is a fancy-shmancy Market District one.  I’ll just be honest here and tell you that I spent well over $40.  There were so many things!  Bulk bins full of seeds and beans and spices!  Some of the prices were on the high side, but there were also plenty of things I wouldn’t be able to get at my local Shop N Save like red lentils, wheat berries, fennel seeds, and coriander.  It was very exciting.  The sale items were great too, like $.89/lb for kale and collards and $.99 boxes of mushrooms.   By the time I had gotten through half the store (didn’t even get to the frozen foods), I was starving and had to quickly come up with a hearty, guest-worthy dinner for two that would cook up fast since I turn into an angry beast when I get hungry. Inspiration struck in the maze that was the produce section, so I stuffed my canvas bags to the brim and hauled them home on the bus with a little help from my handsome man-friend.

Dinner was to be baked potatoes, sauteed beet greens, and this red lentil soup.  All chosen for ease and speed of cooking.  I turned on the oven and started the water boiling before I even unpacked the bags.  While the lentils simmered, I chopped the sweets and onions.  Once the sweet potatoes were in the pot, I sauteed a shallot for the greens and washed them well (beet greens are impressively dirty).  All the while, russets were baking in the oven.  Altogether, the entire meal took less than an hour to prepare and we were satisfied before I got too hangry.

This is a warm, filling stew that is perfect for crisp autumn weather.

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

Ingredients:

2 cups red lentils

2 medium onions

1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes

1 bay leaf

1 inch piece of fresh ginger

Spices:

I think I used about half a teaspoon each of cardamom, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika.  Use what you have.  Curry would also be good in this soup.

Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil, with the bay leaf in it.  Once it’s boiling, add the lentils and simmer.

2.  While the lentils are cooking, peel and finely mince the ginger and add it to the pot.  Then peel and dice the onion and sweet potato and add them.  Put in all the spices, 1/4 teaspoon at a time.  Let it cook a little longer before adding an additional 1/4 tsp or more of all or just some of the spices according to your taste.

3.  Simmer the whole thing for about 40 minutes beginning to end, or for as long as it takes for the lentils and sweet potatoes to soften and the spices to blend.  This is even better leftover because the flavors continue to develop, so feel free to double it to eat all week.

Note about the spices:  If you have the time and feel like dirtying another pan, toast the spices in a skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so before you add them to the stew.  They taste better that way.  I was too hungry to think about it at the time, but it really does add to the flavor of the soup.

This stew is pretty hearty and would be great served with pitas and a green salad rather than baked potatoes and cooked greens.

Split Pea Soup

It’s March, the weather is cold (then warm!  then cold again!), and St. Patty’s Day is around the corner.  Time to eat green things!  Kale, spinach, peas, and green beer (gag!).  Split pea soup is one of my favorite comfort foods.  It’s easy to make, very inexpensive, and super nutritious.  Plus, the variations are endless.  You can give it an Indian flair by using yellow peas and curry, or add different vegetables to stretch it out.  Swap the potatoes for barley or rice!  Add a dash of balsamic vinegar when serving for a bit of zest.  Deep down, though, I really prefer the most basic of recipes, which is what I’m sharing with you today.  Enjoy.

Ingredients:

1 lb split peas (green for St Pat! but yellow ones are nice too)

1 bay leaf

2 large onions

3 stalks celery

4 medium carrots

garlic, anywhere from 2 cloves to a whole head

4 medium potatoes.

Herbs: I like 1T each of dill, sage, and thyme, with some fresh parsley added at the end, and a healthy dose of black pepper

Optional: a big blob of miso paste, or salt to taste

1.  Bring the peas and bay leaf to boil in a large pot with enough water to cover.  Simmer while you prep the other veggies (or take a shower, or make phone calls, or whatever).  They should cook 30-60 mins.  You may need to add more water at any point if the pot gets too dry or the peas start to stick.

2.  Dice the onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes.  Size is up to you; I used my food processor to slice them into neat little disks because I’m lazy.  You could also grate the carrots, or chop everything roughly and puree the soup when it’s done.  Just a matter of preference.

3.  Once the peas have softened up quite a bit, you can add the veggies and herbs. Simmer until all the vegetables and peas are soft and flavors are blended.  Add miso or salt to taste (miso will take a few minute to dissolve).  If you’re planing to puree the soup, just sure to remember to take out the bay leaf!  Actually, take the bay leaf out either way.  I once told my kiddos that if you get the bay leaf in your bowl, it’s good luck.  I made that up to cover up the fact that I always forget to remove it.  Just don’t eat it.

Bon apetit!  Next task:  Green pancakes, without artificial coloring!  Wish me luck (of the Irish, that is)!

Scattered

If you’ve been looking for new recipes lately and been disappointed, I apologize. I’m exhausted and haven’t had much time or energy to innovate in the kitchen. Between taking on a second job and getting back into painting (my other vocation), there has been little thought put into my food. Naturally, this affects how I feel; I know my energy has waned in part because I’ve been eating wacky meals. My brain is scattered and I end up doing things like overcooking beans (see last post), or cooking them and leaving them on the stove all day, only to have to put the whole pot in the fridge before I dash off to work. Then I forget to do something with them, and end up eating a really stupid meal the next day, like chickpeas with hot sauce and a slice of toast, with some carrots because I don’t have any other vegetables.

Thus, I must tell you about all the quick and easy things I am managing to eat! I managed to make some hummus a few days ago, to eat with raw veggies.  (Turns out I like raw broccoli now. Guess you have to keep trying old things as well as new.)  Good start, as hummus can also go on a sandwich, be thinned out and tossed with pasta, or be jazzed up with new seasonings when you get sick of it after a few days. I’m thinking of turning this batch into baba ghanouj later.

Then there’s soup, that ubiquitous star of my diet.  February in New York requires soup. I’ve been feeling home sick, so I made cabbage soup. My mom makes hers with the ham bone from Christmas. I make mine with loads of veggies, mushrooms, and navy beans. Soup is a good choice for busy people, since you can put it on the stove or in a slow cooker and forget it without doing much harm. I’ve also started chopping veggies in my food processor to save time (I ❤ my food processor).  AND it’s a good thing I made a lot of it since I came down with strep this weekend; I don’t feel like eating much and I definitely don’t feel like cooking.

These things, combined with green smoothies (and dark chocolate!), are rounding out my diet for the moment. Not the most exciting fare, but it gets the job done.

Now, since I’m feeling so uninspired (in the kitchen, anyways), tell me what YOU want to see on The Penny Parsnip. Give me some ideas, I’ll come up with something eventually  (like when I’m done with my antibiotics), I promise! I could always come up with a parsnip smoothie, since that phrase is what leads so many people to my blog. But for the record, a parsnip smoothie sounds gross.

Go forth! Inspire me!

Black Bean Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Collards

This is a hearty, nourishing stew that is perfect for a cold winter day.

Ingredients:

1 lb or so of dry black beans, soaked and cooked, cooking liquid reserved (I removed about 2 cups of cooked beans to store in the freezer for another day)

2 big sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 or 3 medium onions, chopped

5-10 cloves garlic (you can leave them whole or mince/crush)

1 bunch of collard greens, stemmed (keep the stems!) and chopped

2 bell peppers, any color, seeded and diced

1 small can tomato paste

Seasoning suggestions:  bay leaf, oregano, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, fresh hot peppers, etc.  A squeeze of lime is nice for serving, too.

1.  Start with your cooked beans simmering in their own broth.  Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, and any other dried seasonings you choose to use.  Save fresh herbs for the end.  Keep it simmering while you chop other things.

2.  Finely mince the stems from the collards.  I did this by putting them into the food processor whole and pulsing until they were in little tiny bits.  I also threw the onions and half the garlic with them, but that’s because I’m lazy, not because it’s necessary.  Feel free to chop everything by hand if you are less lazy than me, or don’t have a food processor.

3.  Add the sweet potatoes, minced stems, and tomato paste to the pot.  You may need to add a little more water at this point too.  Simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft and flavors have melded, 10-20 mins.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, then add the peppers and simmer some more.

4.  Steam the collard leaves until bright green and tender, or if you have a big enough pot (I don’t), just throw them in the soup with the peppers and cook until they wilt.  Add any fresh herbs once all the vegetables are soft.  Serve the stew over the steamed greens and garnish with some hot sauce and nutritional yeast, or a squeeze of lime or a dash of apple cider vinegar.

I like this soup because there’s so little waste.  Why throw those stems away?  When I make collards or kale on their own, I always chop up the stems and saute them with the onions, so I thought, “Why can’t I put them in the soup too?”  The results are delicious, and I hardly had to put any scraps in the garbage.  Bonus of extra fiber!

Stretching

Spent too much over the holidays?  Budget shot from too many nights out, plane/train/bus tickets, and gifts for your family and friends?  Yeah, me too.  All will be well when I get paid tomorrow, but in the meantime, I need to make the most of what I’ve got in the pantry.  (Improv Soup, anyone?)

Upon my return to the city over the weekend, I whipped up a red lentil and sweet potato soup with some curry and other spiced.  As I recall, there’s not much in it besides onion, carrots, celery, 2 big sweet potatoes, and half a pound of red lentils.  It’s tasty, but I can make it last longer by doing a few key things:

Adding brown rice (I get it on the cheap at Trader Joe’s for $1.09/lb)

Adding more vegetables (frozen spinach and others are often less than $2/lb)

Adding a can of tomatoes (watch for sales and buy a whole lot!)

I was planning on doing all of these things until I discovered that I am out of canned tomatoes.  Fortunately I had a couple cans of pumpkin, which is a natural addition to sweet potatoes and spices.  I’ve also added cooked brown rice, some frozen green beans, and a 10oz package of frozen spinach.  For more seasoning, I threw in some more spices (fennel, mustard, cumin), minced fresh ginger, and a just starting to shrivel jalapeno.  Some salt too.

Throw it all in a big pot (except for the rice, which you should save for the end so it doesn’t suck up all the broth) and simmer until it tastes good, adjusting the seasonings as it cooks. The only thing I’d change about my soup is that it could use another onion.  What’s really important though, is that I turned three servings of soup into ten.  I’ll eat like a queen until my paycheck clears!

Almost any dish can be stretched into soup this way.  I have a few servings of Wheat Berry Salad that could probably stand the same treatment if necessary.  Just add water, onion/carrot/celery, and some beans or canned tomatoes, simmer, and voila!  Soup.  Even if you’re not broke, it’s a great way to use up leftovers that you’ve grown weary of.