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1 Can of Coconut Milk = 2 Recipes

March 22, 2012 2 comments

I love coconut milk, but don’t have many recipes that use an entire large can.  Most recipes use a cup or less.  The large cans of coconut milk have almost two cups. When I find the tiny cans of coconut milk, I stock up.  But I don’t find them very often.  So, what to do with the leftover coconut milk?  Many possibilities: Thai coconut soup, smoothies, sorbet, rice pudding, coconut oatmeal, pina coladas, etc.  But, I thought it might be nice to have two recipes that go well together which use one entire can of coconut milk.  So, I give you Curried Coconut Spaghetti Squash and Coconut Pigeon Peas and Rice.  Coincidentally, each recipe also uses half an onion!

Curried Coconut Spaghetti Squash

I originally found this recipe on an interesting paleolithic diet website: (http://www.paleoeffect.com/recipes/paleo-coconut-curry-spaghetti-squash-a-delicate-vegan-side/)

I don’t eat paleo so I took a few liberties with the recipe. Ok, I took a lot of liberties with the recipe.  Wasn’t really in the mood for green curry or cilantro so I used red curry and hot pepper flakes.  Also, added some orange peppers because it sounded like a good idea. I was craving sunny orange and yellow food.  This certainly fit the bill!

This is a nice, light vegan side dish that is great served with Coconut Pigeon Peas and Rice. 

Curried Coconut Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash

6 ounces coconut water or plain water

1 tablespoon coconut oil

½ a medium-large onion, chopped (or 2 large shallots)

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon red curry paste

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon salt

1 medium red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon honey (or agave)

½ cup coconut milk

¼ cup cashew pieces (raw or toasted)

You can bake spaghetti squash in the oven at 350º F for 45 minute to an hour.  However, it is mid-March and we are experiencing record temps in the mid to upper 80s here in  North Alabama.  Do not want to turn on the AC yet so I used the microwave to avoid heating the house.   

Some people bake or microwave spaghetti squash whole, but I prefer to cut them.  Wash the outside of the squash.  Dry it thoroughly.  The rind is tough so it can be a little tricky to cut, so use care when cutting it.  Wrap it in a towel, place it on a cutting board and use a large knife to slice it lengthwise from stem to end.  Then use a spoon or a sturdy ice cream scoop to scoop out the seeds and the stringy stuff.  This is similar to how you clean a butternut squash or a pumpkin.

Place the two halves cut side up in a microwave safe container (I use a Pyrex pie plate).  Fill the cavities with either coconut water or regular water.  Pour a little extra water in the bottom of the container.  Microwave on high for 5 minutes.  Rotate the squash halves and pour a little more of the liquid over the cut edges – this keeps them from drying out.  Microwave another 5 minutes.  Let them rest for about 5 more minutes.  Then, use a fork to shred the squash so that it looks like strands of spaghetti.

In a large sauce pan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, ginger.  Sauté for about 3-5 minutes. Add the spices, salt, and the bell peppers. Sauté for another 2 minutes.  Stir in the honey and coconut milk. Turn the heat to low, add the spaghetti squash and the cashew piece.  Mix and serve immediately

 

Coconut Pigeon Peas and Rice

Pigeon peas are one of my favorite legumes.  They are also known as tropical green peas or gandules (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigeon_pea).  You can buy them canned or dried in most major grocery stores or international markets. In Huntsville you can get them at Publix, Garden Cove, Kroger, and Earth Fare. If you use dried, just soak them for a few hours, rinse, boil for until tender, and then drain. If you use canned peas, drain them for this recipe. 

I have a friend and former neighbor, from Puerto Rico, and his specialty was pigeon peas and rice.  It was one of my favorite meals and I looked forward to the days when Hector cooked.  Over the years, I’ve tried to replicate Hector’s recipe, but nothing can top the original.  Therefore, I decided to create my own version of Pigeon Peas and Rice.  This is a vegan, curried version with coconut.  It’s totally different, but I still like it.  Hope you do too.

Coconut Pigeon Peas and Rice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon coconut oil

½ a medium-large onion, chopped

¼ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon curry powder

1½ teaspoons salt (or less if you want to keep the sodium low)

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1½ cups rice, rinsed (basm­­­­ati, jasmine, or brown long-grain rice)

¼ cup dried unsweetened coconut

1 cup coconut milk

2¼ cups water

2 cups cooked pigeon peas

Heat olive oil and coconut oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, turmeric, curry powder, salt, and black pepper. Cook until onions are translucent and tender, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and coconut. Sauté for about 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and water.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Then, gently stir in the pigeon peas. Cover the pot. Turn the temperature to low. Leave it alone for 20 minutes (no peeking!). Remove from heat and let the rice sit for another 5 minutes.  Fluff/stir the rice and peas. Serve.

 

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Date Nut Bars

March 14, 2012 8 comments

I have been sick for the past week, so I’m a little slow with posting.  Haven’t really felt much like cooking or eating either.  However, now I’m taking medicine that must be taken on a full stomach.  I’m not a huge fan of eating in the morning.  I love breakfast foods, but there is something about eating them early in the morning that is unappealing. I get this honestly from my mom.  Having these tasty date nut bars around should make it easier to eat in the morning so I can take my medicine.

This is another adaptable recipe.  You can make them wheat-free or vegan.  If you don’t like walnuts, use pecans or another nut.  Not a fan of pumpkin seeds, then just use sunflower seeds.  Want real butter or coconut oil instead of canola oil, go for it. If you want them for dessert or a snack bar, feel free to add a few chocolate, carob, butterscotch, or peanut butter chips.  Don’t want to grind flax seeds? You can use sesame seeds or whole flax seeds.  You can add other spices – ginger, cloves, or cardamom.  If you love vanilla, you can add that too. Ok, I’ll stop now; you get the point.

I included substitutions in parentheses for most of the ingredients. Don’t let that limit you though.  This is a fun, easy recipe, so play around with it…

Date Nut Bars

Dry ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats, not instant or quick

¼ cup gluten-free flour blend (or regular flour)

¼ cup maple sugar crystals (or date sugar or brown sugar is fine)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon (or pumpkin pie or apple pie spice blend)

pinch of salt

¼ cup ground flax seeds (or whole flax seeds or sesame seeds)

1 cup walnuts, chopped (or almonds or pecans or hazelnuts or cashews)

½ cup dried raisins (or cranberries or cherries)

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup sunflower seeds

½ cup dried, unsweetened coconut (or shredded sweetened coconut or coconut chips)

Wet ingredients:

½ cup dried dates (or dried apricots or dried figs)

⅓ cup canola oil (or butter, coconut oil, or vegetable oil)

¼ cup peanut butter (or almond butter or cashew butter)

¼ cup maple syrup (or honey or agave or golden syrup or molasses)

3 tablespoons hot water

Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Combine the dates, oil, peanut butter, maple syrup, and hot water in a food processor.  Process until it is a thick paste.  Pour this date mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix well. 

Press into a parchment or foil lined 9”x13” pan (I sometimes use a rolling-pin to make sure it is pressed down firmly). Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Carefully lift the parchment or foil to remove the bars from the pan. Cool on racks.  Cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Cooking with Food Sensitivities

March 6, 2012 4 comments

The next few posts will likely deal with my battle against food allergies.  However, I have been told by some doctors that I do not technically have food allergies, they are merely food sensitivities.  Either way, they are not pleasant.  This is a long post, apologies in advance.

My fight against food sensitivities started about 10 years ago.  I found myself weighing over 200 pounds.  I’m not a tall person, right at 5’5” if I really stretch.  I was heavy, unhealthy, and unhappy. I tried dieting and exercising, but only lost one pound in four weeks.  I had other health issues (hives, itching rashes, etc.) and suspected I might have food allergies.  I went to my family doc and was referred to an allergist.  Long story short…it was discovered that I was allergic to several molds, grasses, trees, pollen, pet dander, and dust.  However, I only had mild food allergies to fish, peanuts, wheat. and oranges.

Disclaimer:  I am NOT a medical professional; please do not take anything I write as medical advice.  This is simply my experience with food allergies/sensitivities, a book recommendation, and a recipe.  Please talk to your doctor before starting a new diet. Thank you and now back to the blog post…

After eliminating fish, peanuts, and oranges from my diet, I was still having reactions – rashes, stomach issues, joint pain, hives, itching, sinus issues, and no weight loss.  A friend, who is also a physician assistant, suggested I read The False Fat Diet by Dr. Elson Haas. This book changed my life!!  Haas mentions that people are often sensitive to seven common foods: 1) wheat, 2) cow’s milk products, 3) sugar, 4) corn, 5) eggs, 6) soy, and 7) peanuts.  Other common food allergens include:  chocolate, tomatoes, oranges, shellfish, yeast, oats, potatoes, MSG, and aspartame.

To determine food sensitivities, you can try an elimination diet, have a blood test, or have a skin test.  I tried the skin test and didn’t have success with it.  I tried the elimination diet but could not pinpoint my food sensitivities, so I tried the blood test.  A few weeks later, I got the results in the mail.  The lab results were not good:  I was highly sensitive to six of the seven foods!  I was also sensitive to several other foods, including one of my favorites – tomatoes! 

I decided to change my life, eliminate those foods, and improve my health.   I eliminated all the troublesome foods and a few others – wheat, dairy, sugar, corn, eggs, soy, peanuts, oranges, yeast, tomatoes, buckwheat, hazelnuts, MSG, aspartame, alcohol, and food colorings.  Did I mention that I was a vegetarian at the time?  Well, I was.  But I added a little fish, poultry, and pork to my diet so I would have more variety. I also followed a rotation diet.  I would eat a given food as much as I wanted in a 24-hour period and then not eat it again for several days.  This can be tough, not many people like salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!  It took some getting used to, but I did it.  It also took lots of meal planning; I even had charts and spreadsheets.  Did I mention I’m a bit of a nerd? 

Before, During, and After Photos:

I followed this diet for about 8 months and increased my exercise. During this time, I lost over 75 pounds and got down to 125 pounds.  That was probably a bit too skinny for me; I didn’t feel as healthy at 125 as I did at 130 or even 135 pounds. For the most part, I kept the weight off for many years. I would fluctuate between 128-138 pounds. I generally just avoided my reactive foods (particularly eggs, soy, wheat, dairy, and corn).  My healthy lifestyle fell apart when I took a job that included travel and long work hours. I got lazy with meal planning, was less active, and put on weight.

Fast forward a few years to the present.  I’ve had some different health issues, not been as active as I could, and my weight is up to its highest in several years.  In January, I was at 160 pounds.  So I joined a Scale Back Alabama weight-loss team with three friends.  The goal is to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. I would like to lose more. So far, in the first month, I’ve lost 7 pounds.  I gave up wheat last week and I think that will help the weight loss. Doubt I will go totally allergy free, but I will go back to limiting my reactive foods, and become more active (my broken toe and torn up knee are not 100% but I can still walk, swim, do yoga, and go to the gym).  No more excuses!  The Flaming Pot Holder will likely show the diet changes. But then again, I might also post one of my favorite recipes (chock-full of allergens), because I’ve learned that occasional splurges are ok.

Oven-baked sweet potato chips are one of my favorite snacks.  They are delicious, allergy free, and cover many of my snack requirements – crispy, slightly chewy, salty, and sweet.  Hope you like them…


Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Chips

2 medium sweet potatoes

1-2 tablespoons oil (canola, olive, coconut, sunflower, or vegetable oil)

Kosher salt or flake salt (I like coarse salt in this recipe, but regular salt is fine too)

 

Preheat oven to 400º degrees F.  Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes.  I keep the peel because it’s one of my favorite parts, but feel free to peel them if you prefer.  Slice the sweet potatoes into thin rounds (I use a slicer, but a knife works fine too, just keep the slices uniform).

Toss the sweet potato slices in a bowl with some oil.  Arrange slices in a single layer on a greased baking/cooling rack, placed on top of a cookie sheet (so it catches any drips).  If you don’t have a cooling rack, you can just arrange the sweet potato slices on a cookie sheet (place it in the oven while it is preheating so it is hot, then you can get a bit more crispness out of the chips).  Just be careful so you don’t burn yourself, I’ve done that way too many times.

Sprinkle the sweet potato slices with salt (optional, you can also make them salt-free). Place in the oven and cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Turn the sweet potatoes over, sprinkle with more salt (if you want).  Cook until crispy, about 7 more minutes.  Depending on your oven temperature, the thickness of the slices, etc. it might take baking up to 10 minutes per side.  These chips can burn quickly, it is a good to keep an eye on they while they are cooking.  It took me a few batches to keep from burning them (though it still happens occasionally).

Hearty Gluten-Free and Vegan Breakfast Cookie Bars

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Dr. Michael Moreno is the author of The 17 Day Diet.  In the book, he includes a recipe for Dr. Mike’s Power Cookie.  My friend Shelli tried the diet and shared the cookie recipe with me.  Here is Dr Mike’s original version:  http://www.the17daydiet.com/dessert/dr-mike%E2%80%99s-power-cookie/

I didn’t have some of the ingredients so I decided to wing it.  My version is gluten-free and vegan.  I don’t know anything about the nutritional information for my cookies, but they are tasty and seem like a healthy alternative to a regular cookie or breakfast bar.  I would not use my recipe if you are actually following the 17 Day Diet, probably best to stick with Dr. Mike’s original recipe.  But if you want a vegan, gluten-free version, here’s one you can try:

Hearty Gluten-Free and Vegan Breakfast Cookie Bars

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tablespoons almond paste (roughly two 3/4” slices of almond paste)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

¼ cup agave nectar

1 egg substitute*

¾ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon almond extract

¾ cup gluten-free flour blend

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne or black pepper (or a combination)

¼ cup vanilla rice bran protein powder

2 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 cup dried fruit (I used a cherry, pomegranate, cranberry blend from Trader Joe’s.)

½ cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350º degrees F. Grease a 9×9” baking pan. Mix the applesauce, almond paste, coconut oil, and agave nectar. Add the egg substitute, vanilla, and almond extract. Mix well. Stir in the gluten-free flour blend, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and rice bran protein powder. Add the oats, dried fruit, and almonds. Mix well. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.  Really press the batter into the pan (use the back of a spatula, batter is thick and sticky). Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool on a baking rack. Cut into squares.  Store in an airtight container. 

*For an egg substitute, I use Ener-G Egg Replacer.  One Egg = 1½ teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 2 tablespoons water.  http://www.ener-g.com/low-protein-1/egg-substitute/egg-replacer.html

Post 12/13 – Italian Lentil and Pea Soup with a Pesto Swirl

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the many beautiful sunsets we saw in Levanto, Italy

Once again, I took liberties with my naming.  Italian might be a misnomer, but I made up this soup using a few ingredients we bought in Italy, so I called it “Italian.”  The rest of the ingredients came from our pantry or Garden Cove.  It was a pantry soup, tried to use what I had on-hand.

We bought the pesto in Levanto and the orzo pasta in Milan.  The recipe is also inspired by a soup we had in Levanto.  We had dinner at Ristorante da Rino, at the recommendation of our friend and host, Claudio.  It was one of the best meals we had on our trip. My favorite part of dinner was the minestrone soup. Their soup rivaled some of the food at the slow food restaurant, La Pallotta, in Assisi (one of the best meals of my life).   It was a thick, creamy bean soup with a pesto swirl, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Nothing like the thin, tomato-based soup served in the States.   

Pesto:  We visited and fell in love with Liguria, a region in northwest Italy. It is famous for its cuisine, particularly pesto. For good reason – the local pesto is incredible! We brought home a few jars.  The pesto we bought includes cheese, so this dish isn’t vegan but it is vegetarian friendly.  You could easily make it vegan by using a pesto with just basil, walnuts (or pine nuts), olive oil, and garlic and leaving off the optional Parmesan sprinkle garnish.  It would probably be even better if you made fresh pesto.  But there was something special about using a jar of pesto from a cute little shop in Levanto.

 Orzo pasta:  We also bought back orzo pasta.  Orzo pasta is pasta in the shape of large grains of rice.  It is also called risoni.  Luckily, you can find it in many grocery stores here.  It was just kinda cool using a bag from a fancy-dancy department store in Milan. Orzo is often used in soups.  I love it in lentil soup, split pea soup, and chicken soup. Since this soup is a combination of split pea and lentil soup, I thought it would be a good addition.  This soup is thick, more like a stew, so I pre-cooked the orzo in salted boiling water and then drained it before adding to the soup.


I made this soup a few weeks ago.  I wrote down the ingredients on the back of an envelope.  I have so many scraps of paper with a list of ingredients, it’s kinda ridiculous!  Slight problem, I didn’t include the directions. So, I’m trying to recreate it in my mind.  Hope it isn’t too scattered.

 

Italian Lentil and Pea Soup with a Pesto Swirl

10 oz. (approx. 2 cups) of fresh sugar snap peas (frozen sweet peas would work too)

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 stalks of celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cup lentils (I used Turkish red lentils)

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

¼ -½ teaspoon black or cayenne pepper (or Penzeys’ Black & Red Blend)

½ teaspoon dried parsley

1 bay leaf

½-1 cup of cooked orzo pasta (depends on how much you like pasta!)

pesto, for garnish

olive oil, for garnish

freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish


If you use fresh pods, use everything – pods and peas (might want to remove the string if they are stringy).  You can also use frozen peas or frozen peas in the pod. Cook the peas until just tender in a small saucepan on the stove or zapped in the microwave. Mash them with a fork or purée with a hand blender.  Set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot sauté the celery, onions, and garlic in the olive oil, until soft.  Stir in the lentils, water, mashed peas, salt, pepper, parsley, and bay leaf.   Cover and simmer on low for about hour or until the lentils are tender.  Check every 20 minutes or so to see if it needs more water.  Add water as needed. Remove the bay leaf.  Purée some of the soup or mash it (depends on how much texture you want).  Add the cooked orzo pasta.  Serve with a swirl of pesto, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan. 

Post 3/13 – Indian Lentils and Rice

January 8, 2012 4 comments

This is my go-to meal of choice.  It is similar to an Indian spicy and savory pongal.  It is quick, economical, healthy, tasty, and versatile!  It can be vegan, and it freezes well.  All in all, one of our favorite dishes at the Smith-Jordan house.  A few notes:

Fresh Curry Leaves: The recipe calls for fresh curry leaves, they are important to the dish.  However, you probably don’t have fresh curry leaves in your refrigerator.  Luckily, you can find them at your local Indian or Asian market.  They are typically stored in the refrigerated section.  It is best to keep them refrigerated, since they tend to oxidize and turn black.  They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 5 days if left on the stem.  The bags of leaves can be large, so I usually freeze the leftover leaves (removed from the stem) in a re-sealable plastic bag.  They aren’t quite as pungent when thawed, but they maintain their unique flavor that is essential to the dish.  

Curry powder:  It does not come from curry leaves.  Curry powder is actually a generic term for a blend of several different spices.  My former boss ( I miss her) told me that families in India each have their own unique blend.

Ghee:  Clarified butter, it is a staple in many Indian recipes.  You can make your own or you can buy it.  Locally, Garden Cove and Earth Fare usually carry glass jars of organic clarified butter.  

Trivia time and random factoids are over, now time for the recipe…

 ½ cup red lentils (or yellow split peas (chana dal) or moong dal)

2 cups rice (basmati is more flavorful, but delicate, jasmine rice works well)

1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (not sweetened baking coconut)

6 cups water

¼ cup ghee or oil (coconut, safflower, or any oil of your choice)

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

¾ teaspoon turmeric (heaping)

1½ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground (or you can use Black & Red from Penzeys)

12-16 fresh curry leaves, thinly sliced with a few left whole for garnish

pinch of cayenne pepper, optional

Optional garnishes: thinly sliced hot peppers. additional whole fresh curry leaves, plain yogurt, lime pickles, chopped cashews or almonds, golden raisins, or toasted coconut

If you use split peas or large lentils, cover with water, let soak for 20 minutes, and then rinse.  Rinse the rice in a strainer until the water runs clear. 

In a large saucepan, combine the lentils, rice, coconut, and water.  Cover, bring to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, while the rice is cooking, heat a small sauté pan on medium heat.  Toast the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, turmeric, salt, black pepper, peppers, and curry leaves in the ghee or oil.  Heat the mixture for about 2-5 minutes, until very aromatic.  Watch and stir frequently because it can burn quickly.  Set aside.  When rice/lentil mixture is cooked, gently stir in the spice mixture.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts, a few whole curry leaves, and it’s ready to serve.

Note:  It is delicious as it is, but I’ve been thinking about making a few changes…upping the lentil quantity to 1 full cup and increasing the water to 6½ cups.  I think the addition of more lentils might make it a heartier dish.  Also, I’m thinking about adding some grated ginger.  Not certain how the ginger would play with the curry leaves, so I might omit the curry leaves.  

Excuses, Excuses…

August 26, 2011 12 comments

Ok, it has been a while since my last post (actually, my first and only post).  There are tons of reasons:  1) health issues, 2) honeymoon trip planning (much more fun than #1), 3) writer’s block, and 4) a lack of confidence.  This last one is the biggie.

Health issues are improving and I am feeling better!  All of the flights and rooms are booked so the trip planning is going well.  Just have the little details of what to see, what to do, how to get there, left to plan.  Writer’s block has plagued me for years; I should be used to it by now.  I just gotta write something, anything, to get me started.  This post is my attempt to get over this latest block.

This leads me to “lack of confidence.”  I have many recipes to share, but I am worried that the recipes might not be foolproof enough to post.  Case in point – recently, I made cornbread when my in-laws were visiting.  I got a little too confident and didn’t measure everything.  Big mistake!  Thought I was running out of the corn meal mix, so I just poured all of it into the mixing bowl.  Figured I would get the ratio correct when I added the buttermilk.  Not so much.  Fail!  It tasted fine, but the texture was crumbly.  Having a fail from my own recipe, didn’t exactly boost my confidence.

I’ve also been concerned that my photography is not good enough.  So, I’ve used this as another rationalization not to post.  Well, we just got a new camera for our trip to Italy and I am optimistic that this excuse will not be an issue for very long.  Now, if I can just learn how to use the camera, I’ll be set! In the meantime, I will post what I can (with or without photographs).  I can always update posts after the fact.

Following are three recipes to make up for my lack of recent posts.  The first is my homage to summer – a “Magic” Blueberry Cobbler.  This recipe, originally from Good Morning America,  is also delicious with peaches (or blackberries, or even a combo of the three).  Berry season is over but if last night’s farmers market is any indication, peaches are still going strong here in Alabama.  The other two are my welcome to fall recipes (one can dream that fall will be here eventually) – Egyptian Style Red Lentil Soup and an Egyptian Style Salad Dressing.  Last week’s cooler weather made me think about soup.  This is an excellent and versatile soup; it can be vegetarian, vegan, or made with stock.  In addition, it is relatively quick to make since it does not need to simmer all day. It is great for not heating up the kitchen while we are waiting patiently for fall!  The salad dressing makes a nice accompaniment, perfect on a simple green salad.

Magic Blueberry Cobbler:
5 cups fresh blueberries (works with frozen berries too, you can also substitute peaches or blackberries for half of the blueberries)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I probably used a little more)
¼ teaspoon ground mace (optional, I used cinnamon)
3 cups sugar (I used less sugar)
1 cup whole milk (I have used ½ & ½ with a little water)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (or a little more)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread the blueberries in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.  Drizzle the lemon juice over the berries and set this aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, ½ teaspoon of the salt, the nutmeg, mace (or cinnamon), 1½ cups of the sugar, the milk, butter, and vanilla.  Spoon over the berries and spread in an even layer.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1½ cups sugar, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and the cornstarch.  Sprinkle this mixture over the batter.  Pour the boiling water evenly over the top of the cobbler.  Poke a few holes down in the batter with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Bake for 1 hour or until bubbly, golden brown and shiny.  Serve warm or at room temperature (I like it cold for breakfast!).

Egyptian Style Red Lentil Soup:
2 cups chopped onions
10 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 carrots, chopped
1-1½ cups chopped potatoes (about 1 large potato)
5 cups water (or vegetable broth or chicken stock)
1 cup dried red lentils
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of hot chili flakes, cayenne, or Aleppo pepper (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

In a large pot or Dutch oven, sauté the onions, celery, and garlic in oil.  Add the carrots, potatoes, lentils, and water. Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are tender. Take pot off the heat or turn it to very low.

In a separate, small saucepan, add the canola oil and warm over low heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.  Add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, salt, and chili flakes; cook and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes or until the spices have released their fragrance (be careful not to burn the spices).  Set spice mixture aside for a few minutes to cool.

Stir spice mixture into the lentil mixture and then add the cilantro.  You can purée the soup, in batches, in a blender or you can use an immersion blender and blend to a desired texture (I like to leave it a little chunky).  Add the fresh lemon juice and stir to combine.  Re-warm soup and season with more salt/pepper, if you want.  Serve with lemon wedges and Greek low-fat yogurt.

Egyptian Style Salad Dressing:
¼ cup oil (canola, sunflower, olive oil, or your choice of oils)
¼ cup lemon juice (can also substitute lime if that’s what you have)
1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider or a combination)
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of hot chili flakes, cayenne, or Aleppo pepper (optional)

Mix ingredients.  Serve over a green salad or tomato/cucumber/onion/parsley chopped salad.