Lentil love

For some reason, I put lentils in a little box where the only use was for stews and soups, i.e., dishes in which I cooked them to mush.  A scrumptious lentil salad (with nice, firm lentils) at a recent church potluck reminded me of the versatility and deliciousness of lentils.

As I browsed Show Me Vegan the other day, I came across this post about Snobby Joes, a vegetarian version of sloppy joes made with, you guessed it, lentils!  Seriously, you have to try this recipe — so good! Click here for the recipe at Post Punk Kitchen.

Growing up, my mom made delicious sloppy joes (except for that one time she left the pan on the stove and almost burned the house down).  I was a bit nervous about how Snobby Joes would stack up next to my memory of my mom’s sloppy joes (the kind with ground beef).  The answer?  This recipe will be part of our regular rotation from now on.

In addition to tasting great, the lentils in Snobby Joes provide lots of healthy plant protein.  On a budget?  This dish leaves you with plenty of green in your wallet.

My Variations

If you’re swimming in tomatoes right now, like we are, you can use fresh tomatoes in place of the tomato sauce and paste.  Just puree some chopped fresh tomatoes in the blender until you have at least 1 1/4 cups of tomato sauce.  This will work best if at least some of the tomatoes are paste tomatoes (less water content).  If you don’t have any paste tomatoes, simply suck out the tomato juice from the cut slices before adding to the blender.  (Alternately, you could squeeze the juice into a bowl and drink it, but Method #1 dirties fewer dishes.)

Cooking the lentils for 20 minutes is important.  More cooking, and you’ll get lentil mush.  Less cooking, and they’ll be a little crunchy.  The fear of mushy lentil scared me into under cooking mine a bit this time around, not bad, but I’ll go for the full twenty next time.

Don’t have buns?  Bread or English muffins work well also.  We enjoyed these on our homemade 100% whole wheat bread.  Open-faced creates the perfect bread to filling ratio.

Photo courtesy of our dying digital camera — gotta love planned obsolescence!

Entry to Nupur’s Blog Bites 5: Sandwiches and Wraps

Caprese salad sandwiches

The moniker “basil, tomato, mozzarella sandwich” always felt a bit cumbersome.  Over the weekend, I realized that “Caprese salad sandwich” works much better.

Caprese salad sandwiches

  • Sliced tomatoes (must be in season and locally grown)
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced (or substitute avocado for a vegan version)
  • Basil leaves
  • Bread
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar (use something good — our favorite is Bistro Blends’ Heirloom Balsamic Vinegar)

Lightly salt tomatoes, if desired.  Spread some olive oil on a piece of bread, then layer tomatoes, mozzarella/avocado, and basil.  Drizzle balsamic over the top and/or pour a shot glass of balsamic to sip with sandwich bites (you know it’s a good balsamic if you’re inclined to sip it).

I made open-faced sandwiches on our homemade 100% whole wheat bread last night, but they’re good with one slice of bread or two.

Summer eats and treats

I kicked off the weekend with a strawberry banana smoothie, made with frozen local berries, homemade yogurt from local milk, and The Last Banana, recovered from the depths of the freezer, served in a green glass.

Delicacy or discard?  That funky looking growth is huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn (known in the U.S. as “corn smut”).  It’s edible, and in Mexico, it fetches a high price, much higher than the corn itself.  Matthew handled the prep work.  I avoided touching it until he cooked it.  (If he’d been feeling ornery, he could have chased me around the apartment, threatening to touch me with it.)  Once cooked, it looked and tasted much like any other cooked fungus (i.e., mushroom).  Click here to read more details, including potential health benefits.

At my urging, Matthew bought a tomato at the farmers’ market.  (He liked the idea of our first tomato of the season being from our garden, but we’re not quite there yet — soon!)  Dressed up with basil (courtesy of our neighbors’ plant — hope they won’t mind 😉 ), olive oil, and s&p.  Yum!

Partial results of another oven extravaganza: zucchini bread and chocolate chip pumpkin bread.  I have not purchased bananas for a year-and-a-half, due to their large carbon footprint (which gives you a sense of the age of the banana that went into the aforementioned smoothie).  As predicted, these two quick breads make great alternatives to banana bread.

Sneak peak of “Summer eats and treats — Part II” coming tomorrow: homemade pizza and ice cream sandwiches!

Just dip it

A little elf  prepared this meal — I found it ready and waiting when I got home from work one evening last week.  I took a few bites, and, though it was quite good, knew my meal needed more veggies.  I sliced up zucchini “chips” and chopped some broccoli as an additional dipper.  Much better.

Start with a layer of refried beans, top with chopped tomatoes, corn, [spicy] cheese, salsa, and green onions (the last three ingredients were local).  Compared to our normal meals, this one involved a good bit of “prepared” food: canned refried beans, canned tomatoes, frozen corn, and tortilla chips.

Try one or more of these options for a  fresh, locavore version: homemade refried beans made from locally grown black beans, chopped garden tomatoes, and/or local corn off-the-cob.  If you really want to get crazy, you could make your own tortilla chips.  Or eliminate the chips altogether and stick with fresh veggie dippers.

This not-quite-seven-layer dip, with the veggie addition, makes an ideal quick, tasty, healthy meal.

Fast food, green and healthy style

Sometimes you just need an easy-ish meal.  The delicious fresh produce available at this times of year helps in this quest.  The other night, we assembled our delicious beet salad (recipe here) and some dressed-up grilled cheese sammies.

Roasting the beets takes a bit of time, but it’s worth it — chop the beets* and get them roasting first, then work on the rest of the meal while they roast.

The co-chef made the grilled cheese sandwiches, with local cheese and our homemade whole wheat bread, dressed-up with sauteed spinach* and fresh green onions*, while I worked on the salad.  He added a fried egg to his sandwich for a twist.  Good fast food requires a bit more time and effort than traditional fast food, but the result is delicious and nutritious!

* From our garden, as were the greens for the salad.