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This week winter finally decided to visit Northeastern Oklahoma. Granted, a blizzard with ice and 14 inches of blowing snow isn’t really ideal, especially in a city not equipped to clear the roads. We did all the normal winter storm preparation: grocery shopping, winterproofing, menu planning. I decided that a big pot of daal would be the perfect step in our storm preparation.

Before you ask, daal or dahl or dal or dhal is a spicy Indian lentil dish. The spelling and some of the specific ingredients can vary by where regions as this dish is popular throughout the region in Nepal, Shi Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Daal is an excellent source of nutrition and protein, especially in a meatless diet.

Daal

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 carrot, diced
2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 cup red lentils
1 cup brown lentils
5 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rasins
3 tablespoons curry powder*
1 tablespoon cumin*
1 tablespoon turmeric*
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes*
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
salt to taste.

In a large pot, combine carrot, 1 tablespoon ginger, lentils, and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until lentils are tender.
In a separate skillet, heat sunflower oil over medium heat. Saute green onions, garlic, ginger, and raisins. Add curry, cumin, turmeric, and dried chili flakes and saute for about two minutes to allow spices to bloom.
Add tomatoes and coconut milk.
Add to pot of lentils and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Salt to taste and serve with brown basmati rice or naan.

*My curry powder has a lot of great flavor but not a lot of heat to it so I added additional spices. If your curry powder is hot you may not need these ingredients.

Snow and cold weather always make me want to bake. With a solid layer of sleet on the ground and the snow piling high and drifting in the front yard, this morning seemed the perfect time to settle in and bake something tasty for breakfast.

These muffins are hearty and healthy. As the recipe is, it is egg-free. If you use non-dairy yogurt and milk you could easily make these tasty muffins vegan.

Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Muffins
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup yogurt, plain low fat
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil, sunflower or vegetable oil
2 bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon flax meal
3 tablespoons water
1 cup oat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine oats, yogurt and milk in a bowl and allow to soak about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl combine flax meal and water and allow to sit 3 minutes.
Combine flours, salt, spices, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Whisk lightly to combine.
To the oat mixture, add brown sugar, mashed banana, and flax meal mixture. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the rolled oats mixture and mix well. Fill greased or lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes (10 minutes for mini muffins) in a 400 degree oven.

It seems that the organic bananas have been turning very quickly recently. I buy them when they’re still green and within a couple of days they are half brown, skipping the yellow stage entirely. Audra and Eleanor both love bananas, but they can’t eat them that quickly. Or rather, I won’t let them. When Audra was starting on solids I learned the hard way what too many bananas do to a baby.

Three over-ripe bananas have been sitting on the kitchen counter for several days. I have thought several times about making banana bread, but the recipe I have always used is wheat-based and full of loathsome gluten. On several occasions I have looked online for a gluten-free banana bread recipe, but my little girls seem to have been exceptionally demanding.

One of our friends is moving to Michigan next week and there is a going away party after church on Saturday. I found out yesterday that everyone is supposed to bring snack food. With renewed purpose and a deadline I set out to find a recipe.

Currently my favourite gluten-free cooking blog is “Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.” Shauna has wonderful recipes and stories. She also has a little girl about Audra’s age. On her blog is a recipe for a chocolate banana bread. Her recipe calls for yogurt. Since I make my own yogurt it is difficult to resist the urge to cook with it.

I adapted this recipe to make an amazing egg-less banana bread with a nearly cake-like consistency. For vegan banana bread try using a non-dairy yogurt (soy, coconut, etc).

Nearly Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread (egg-less)
  4 oz teff flour (about 1 cup)
  6.5 oz brown rice flour (about 1 cup)
  5.5 oz sugar (about 3/4 cup)
  6 tablespoons cocoa powder (high quality)
  1 teaspoon baking soda
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  3 overly ripe bananas (about 1 cup)
  1/2 cup applesauce
  1/3 cup light olive oil
  1/4 cup plain yogurt
  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease two small loaf pans.

Combine flours, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Use a fork to break up clumps in the cocoa powder. Use a whisk to incorporate dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl mash bananas. Add applesauce, oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Mix well.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients using a spatula. Batter will be lumpy. Do not over mix.

Portion batter into pans. Bake for about 45 minutes. When bread is done a toothpick inserted into the middle will come out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on rack to finish cooling.

Serve warm or completely cooled. Enjoy!

One of the first outings I went on with my husband was to P.F. Chang’s.  We had been at a coffee shop all afternoon.  He finally convinced me that I needed a study break, we got in his little red rally car, and headed across midtown in the snow.  He had Orange Peel Chicken, one of his favourites.

Several months later, when we were dating, I decided to try to copy their recipe and make Orange Peel Chicken at home.  It was good, and I modified the recipe several times.  I also gave myself several second-degree burns (let’s just say there are two reasons I don’t fry food).  I had taken what was a pretty good copy of P.F. Chang’s recipe and turned it into something that suited both of our tastes a little bit better.  Then we became vegetarians.

I modified the recipe a little bit more today to make it gluten-free and sugar-free.  Now I can’t imagine why it needed either to begin with.

Orange Peel Vegetable Stir-Fry
    Sauce:
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 onion, sliced
    2 green onions, sliced
    1 cup tomato sauce
    1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
    juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup)
    1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
    1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
    1 tablespoon corn starch

    Stir Fry:
    1 bell pepper, chopped
    1 carrot, julienned
    1 head broccoli, cut
    1/2 cup edamame
    1/2 cup mushroom, sliced
    peel from 1/4 orange, julienned

Prepare sauce by heating 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions.  Quickly add the tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water (before garlic browns).  Add orange juice, chili flakes, and soy sauce.  Combine corn starch with 1 tablespoon of water.  Slowly stir in to sauce.  Bring sauce to a boil and simmer until the sauce thickens.  Turn off heat.

In a wok heat 1 tablespoon oil.  Add mushrooms.  Cook until lightly browned on one side.  Add bell peppers and cook lightly.  Add carrots, broccoli, and edamame.  When everything is cooked through, add orange peel.  Cook for 20-30 seconds.  Add sauce to the pan and stir until heated and combined.

Serve over brown rice.

*I only put mushrooms on my husbands serving.  This dish would also be good with tofu, but my family does not like it.  Feel free to use whatever vegetables your family likes.  This is what I had on hand today.

As vegetarians, sometimes we have a hard time finding good places to eat when we’re out.  One of our favourite places to eat out is at Cosi.  My husband likes to go on Tuesdays when they have their Moroccan Lentil Soup.  He loves it.  For this reason I have spent several months trying to find a recipe for lentil soup that was similar to theirs.

I had little luck.  After hours of searching and four different recipes we found a soup that we liked in theory.  I made several small changes and came up with our version of Moroccan Lentil Soup.  It is different from what they have at Cosi, but we really like it.  So does our friend, Eddie.

Moroccan Lentil Soup
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T turmeric
2 T cumin
1 t red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, cut into shoestrings
2 potatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 c red lentils
1 c lentils
1/2 inch fresh ginger or 1 t ground ginger
4 c vegetable broth
4 c water
salt to taste

In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, onions, and bell peppers.  Cook until onions are soft, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the cumin and turmeric.  Stir occasionally and allow spices to “bloom.”   Add 2 c broth and 2 c water.  Stir in red pepper flakes and ginger.  Bring liquid to a boil.  Add potatoes, carrots, and red lentils.  Boil for 20-30 minutes, or until lentils are soft.  Stir occasionally.  Add tomato paste and remaining broth and bring to a boil.  Add lentils.  Boil for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt to taste.

Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream if desired.

Two notes:
  Allowing the spices to bloom is the key to the flavour of this wonderful soup.
  Add salt at the last minute.  Adding salt while the lentils are cooking can lead to tough lentils.

I first made this recipe when my family was here for Christmas.  It was okay, but I felt like it still needed some work.  I added ingredients, adjusted the ratios of several ingredients, and made it again while Randall’s parents were here for the weekend.  This time it was nearly perfect.

Regular onions don’t tend to agree with Audra, so I use green onions instead.  Feel free to use a regular onion in yours.  I think a yellow onion would taste best.

Also, this time I used 4 cups of vegetable broth since I was feeding 4 1/2 people.  There was enough for all of us to have seconds.  I like it a little bit thicker, so when we don’t have company I’ll probably reduce the liquid a little bit.

Enjoy!

Roasted Poblano Corn Chowder
    1 large poblano peppers, washed, split and seeded
    1 Tablespoon olive oil
    2 green onions, diced
    2 clove garlic, diced
    2-3 button mushrooms
    2 Tablespoon butter
    3 Tablespoons flour
    1 teaspoon cumin
    pinch cayenne pepper
    1-2 medium potatoes, diced
    2-4 cups vegetable broth
    salt and pepper to taste
    2 cups frozen corn kernels (use fresh if seasonally available)
    1 can cream style corn
    12 oz evaporated skim milk or 1/2 & 1/2
    diced avocado (to garnish)
    shredded cheddar cheese (to garnish)

Place the peppers on a sheet pan and flatten with your hand. Broil until blistered and charred, taking care not to overcook the peppers. Poblanos are thinner-walled peppers and cannot withstand the blackening that bell peppers can. Remove from the pan and immediately place in a bowl. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and allow to steam. After 15 minutes, peel and dice the peppers, set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 4 quart sauce pan. Saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Add mushrooms and continue sauteing for a minute.  Add the butter and flour and stir until the mixture is bubbly and colors slightly. Add the cumin and cayenne, stirring constantly to help the spices bloom. Add the broth, peppers and potatoes. Cook at a simmer until the potatoes are just tender. Add the corn kernels and cream style corn. Cook until the corn is heated through, then add the milk or cream. Heat until hot. Portion into bowls and sprinkle with the green tops of the onions, avocado and cheese if desired.

Quinoa is a pseudocereal.  It not technically classified as a cereal or grain as it does not grow as a grass.  This hearty plant originated in the Andean region of South America and was an important food source for the Incas.

Quinoa has a high protein content, thus making it a good food choice for those with a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Quinoa is considered to be a complete protein since it has a balanced set of amino acids.  In addition to being a good source of protein quinoa is also a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, iron.

I’ve been trying to add variety to the grains we eat.  We’ve tried quinoa several times.  I’ve learned that Randall does not like quinoa cold.  He also seems to like it a lot better if I toast the “grains” before cooking it.  Unrelated to the quinoa, Audra likes toasted pine nuts.

Hot Asparagus and Potato Quinoa Salad
    2 cups white quinoa
    4 cups water
    4 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
    1/2 large yellow onions, chopped
    1 clove garlic, chopped
    1 cup pine nuts, toasted
    1 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch segments
    1 green onion, sliced
    zest from 1/2 lemon
    vegetable broth
    olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa until the water runs clear and allow to dry completely.  Toast quinoa over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes.  Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a large pot.  Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes (until quinoa releases spirals and becomes transparent).  Drain any excess liquid and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and onions.  After a couple minutes, add the potatoes and a little bit of salt.  Toss to coat the potatoes and cover for a few minutes.  Uncover and toss again.  Cook for a few minutes longer until the potatoes begin to turn golden brown.  Add asparagus and lemon zest.  Continue tossing the mixture until the potatoes are done and slightly crispy.  Add a little bit of vegetable broth to deglaze the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.

Toss the quinoa with a splash of olive oil.  Gently mix in the potatoes and asparagus.  Top with toasted pine nuts and green onions.  (You could also dish the quinoa into a bowl and top with the potatoes, asparagus, pine nuts, and green onions.)

Serves 4 – 6.

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