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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.

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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.

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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