BodyGuruBlog

Health, Wellness, and My "Multi-Life"

Black-Eyed Pea Chili

photo of dried peas

Back in February I planned to work on two vegan items: a baked pasta and black-eyed pea chili. Baked pasta had been on my mind because I just love noodles. Thick vs. thin; short vs. long; rice vs. wheat … pasta offers so many delicious choices! In all honesty, despite the fact that Asian noodle bowls have become my default quick meal, I would be hard pressed to choose between a steaming bowl of Chinese-style, dumpling noodle soup and a plate of penne all’arrabbiata.

My desire to create a black-eyed pea-based chili, on the other hand, is owed to chef Matthew Gansert. A local gastropub had been featuring his vegan black-eyed pea chili. It was a perfect winter dish: wonderfully rich, spicy, and served with homemade tortilla chips, which formed the perfect scoop. (Don’t even get me started about his vibrant millet salad!) But earlier this year the gastropub changed “concept,” Matthew headed to Brooklyn, and with him went the chili.

Never one to sit and sulk I thought, “Well I’ll just make my own chili.” But there was a slight problem: since it had never occurred to me that I might someday need to make it myself, I never paid his chili the “right” sort of attention. That is, I simply savored it–never noting various vegetables, never peeling back its layers of flavor. So instead of trying to recreate it from memory, I decided to start from scratch. My chili certainly isn’t that chili, but it suits the eclectic weather we’ve been experiencing: hearty enough to chase away lingering snows, but bright with a spring-like mixture of fresh herbs added just before serving.

photo of chili in pot

Ingredients:

  • 1-1 1/4 cups of dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp smoked bittersweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili pepper (more or less, I used marash, go easy if using cayenne)
  • olive or other cooking oil
  • can or pack of diced, stewed, whole, and/or fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup unsalted vegetable broth
  • salt to taste
  • generous handful of chopped herbs (I used scallions, fresh oregano, parsley, and cilantro)

photo of fresh herbs

Directions:

  • soak the peas overnight in plenty of water, drain and rinse when ready to cook
  • dice the pepper and onion (your choice, I went big enough that they wouldn’t fall apart during cooking)
  • smash and mince the garlic
  • heat oil in a big pot over medium heat (enough oil so that the bottom is lightly covered)
  • sauté the onion until it starts to soften, add the pepper and garlic and stir
  • add the spices and stir until fragrant (this happens quickly)
  • add the soaked and drained beans, tomatoes (with their juice), and vegetable broth, stir
  • bring the pot to a boil, adding water if need
  • cover and simmer on low until beans are tender (mine took little over an hour)
  • check your chili, if it’s a bit watery, open the lid and let some of the excess liquid boil off
  • just before serving mince one or two scallions and coarsely chop herbs, stir in just before serving or sprinkle on individual servings

bowl of chili

NOTE: I ended up not adding any additional salt because the tomatoes contained enough to for the entire pot. That said, I think I could have doubled the tomatoes and turned up the heat by doubling the chili pepper.

Related Links:

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Valentine’s Day Shout Out

Jumbo Size Thanks!

Jumbo Size Thanks!

Wow! Has it really been over a month since my last blog post? In my defense, I’ve been busy. Busy with a new semester, busy with training … but I think that the surprising amount of snow that has fallen on Philadelphia has contributed greatly to my sluggishness. Whenever it snows and we get a day off, I hibernate, more or less. I don’t mean that I sleep all day (although I do try to maximize time spent in pajamas), but I end up reading novels, making soup etc.

I’d like to use Valentine’s Day to send my long-promised Shout Out to everyone who donated to my Birthday for Giving campaign! Jumbo size trumpet blast thanks to:

Angela Yecco * Diana Erbsen * Cris Hellerstein * Maryanne Desantis * Deirdre Woods

Alexander Marvel * Carly Bodner * Linda Johnson * Kim Corson * Susan Ingalls

Matthew Johnson * Christina Celentano * Kimberly Brickley * Danielle Thomson

Kristina Rozan * Ximena Lara Reyes * Caroline Stein * Kelly Britt * Carmen McLean

Thomas Anthony Dixon * Molly Campbell * my family

Indiegogo * and all my anonymous donors

Both the Asian and the African elephant face the threat of extinction from habitat loss and rampant poaching. You are all such angels – your generosity has given these amazing creatures hope.

In the past few months the United States has crushed six tons of seized ivory to send a message to poachers and traffickers that illegal trade will not be tolerated. See the Fish and Wildlife Services page for answers to common questions. Following the U.S. lead, several other nations have destroyed their stores including China and France, with the Philippines to follow later this year.

Meanwhile, the Elephant Parade finished its U.S. run in Dana Point with a fund-raising auction back in 2013. The latest U.K. Tour has begun and will feature the winner of a Robin Hood-design contest. Of course, I’m crossing my fingers that they will announce an East Coast U.S. location this year.

Thank you all once again, and don’t be a stranger to my blog – I’m determined to create a vegan black-eyed pea chili and baked pasta in the coming months, so stay tuned for the recipes!

Happy Valentine's Day to all Ele-Angels!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all Ele-Angels!

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Happy 2014: Celebrating the New Year, Japanese Style!

photo of kagami omochi

kagami omochi

Happy 2014 everyone! My family has always celebrated New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with Japanese traditions. On New Year’s Eve my family would share a steaming pot of ramen as we watched the ball drop over Times Square. Although it is more traditional to eat soba (buckwheat noodles), ramen are quick and simple–and were more readily available when I was growing up. My mother always told me that long noodles would guarantee a long life, and to this day I make sure both to eat noodles on New Year’s Eve and to call or email to let her know. This year my boyfriend and I enjoyed a quick pre-party snack of pan-fried noodles with napa cabbage and scallion, but in the past I have served up everything from Japanese-style noodle soup to spaghetti aglio et olio.

photo of soba noodles

soba noodles – click for the full story

On New Year’s morning, we always awoke to the sounds and scents of ozoni in the making. Ozoni is a delicious soup that features mochi, or cakes made of steamed and pounded sticky rice: Mochi-Making video. These days you can find ice cream-filled mochi at some Japanese restaurants or red bean-filled and sesame-coated fried mochi balls from a dim sum cart all year long, but I always associate mochi with the first few days (or week) of the year. The photo at the top of this post features kagami omochi, which is a traditional Japanese New Year’s decoration. Click on it for full details.

Ozoni recipes vary by region and according to family tastes. At base, it consists of mochi cakes that are warmed, softened, and served in a broth. I’ve linked several recipes below. In the past I have made my broth by stewing a split chicken breast, seasoning the broth with mirin and soy sauce, and adding anything from sliced bok choy to mustard greens (a delicious surprise when I was unable to find any Asian greens), and dried shiitake mushrooms. This year I am trying my hand at Kansai style, which features a shiro (white) miso-based broth. Apparently, Kansai or Kyoto-style ozoni also favors round balls of stewed mochi, but I can only find rectangular pre-packaged mochi in my area. It tends to be a bit hard, so I pre-heat it in my toaster oven–350 degrees, lightly greased with toasted sesame oil–until it starts to puff up before adding it to the soup.

photo of packaged mochi

Packaged Mochi

I’m a few days behind on my ozoni making, so I cannot upload any photos. I can, however, offer a quick snack suggestion: norimaki mochi.

  1. Heat one piece of mochi per snack in the toaster oven as described above (you can also use a microwave, but keep an eye on it and stop the cooking as soon as it starts to balloon).
  2. While the mochi is baking, mix about a tablespoon of soy sauce with a teaspoon of sugar on a small plate or bowl.
  3. I like to warm my seaweed for a crisper texture and that toasty aroma. Holding onto one corner, gently flip a piece of nori over a burner (electric or gas) repeatedly until the color starts to change, and you smell the seaweed.
  4. Roll the mochi in the soy sauce-sugar mixture (the heat of the mochi will melt the sugar), wrap in seaweed, and enjoy!

Up next: final details and shout outs on my #Indiegogo Birthday for Giving campaign!

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Lemongrass and Ginger Scented Butternut Squash Soup

About a month ago a friend of mine posted a link to a YouTube video called “Happy Asian Thanksgiving.” Like the guys in the video, I also joke about Asian or Japanese versions of holidays. Our 4th of July BBQs featured hamburgers and chicken teriyaki skewers grilled on a hibachi and served with rice (no buns) and cucumber salad. And I can’t imagine a proper Thanksgiving without sesame green beans and a healthy serving of rice to soak up the gravy. Not surprisingly, our Christmas dinners have always featured my Mother’s twists on American standbys. But as we kids have grown up, our celebrations have become simpler. Lately we’ve been gathering on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, and a sushi platter has taken center stage.

This year my Mom decided to make inarizushi stuffed with gingered rice, which is one of my favorites. We also decided on steamed asparagus and a simple salad. I wanted to contribute something homemade and seasonal–but with flavors that would complement the rest of the meal. I quickly imagined a butternut squash soup, pale and sweet with coconut milk, but brightened with hints of ginger, lemongrass, and red chile.

bowl of soup

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass
  • 1 slice of ginger, about the size of 3 quarters stacked
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth (I used a cube of unsalted vegetable stock)
  • 1/2-3/4 cups coconut milk
  • red chile flakes and salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it is heating slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place in a baking pan with the shallot. Bake for 25-46 minutes, testing the squash after 25 minutes. While the squash is baking, cut a slice of ginger. Slice the ends off of the lemongrass and bruise the stalk (smash it with the flat side of a knife, cut a few slashes in it). Set these aside.

photo of lemongrass, ginger, and shallot

Simple Seasonings

Baked Squash and Shallot

Baked Squash and Shallot

Scoop the baked squash into a dutch oven or stock pot. Peel the shallot and place it in the pot as well. Add 2 cups broth or water, the ginger and the lemon grass,  and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. When everything is soft and smelling fragrant, remove the lemongrass and ginger (keep it in the soup for a stronger ginger flavor). Puree the soup–shallots and all–until smooth. I let this cool, packed it up, and finished just before serving.

photo of soup pot

Ready for Pureeing

Finish the soup by adding coconut milk to desired consistency (I used about 2/3 cup). Add salt to taste and red chile flakes for a bit of heat (I used about 1/8th of a teaspoon).

photo of coup with coconut milk

Stir In Coconut Milk

This soup was delicious and warming. Next time, however, I plan to use a kabocha squash and finish it with fine shreds of kaffir lime leaves.

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Holiday Hip Openers

stressed gingerbread man

Holiday’s Have You Stressed?

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, the winter holiday season can prove quite stressful. Gift shopping, social obligations, and irregular eating patterns can take their toll on our bodies. On top of all this, those of us living in my neck of the woods often face plummeting temperatures and hostile precipitation. Not surprisingly, many of us find our bodies feeling stiffer and sorer than usual. In fact, some days it takes a real effort for me not to spend all day hunched over, clutching my arms. Heart openers offer a sensible solution to all that arm-crossing and face huddling. But yoga also tells us that we “hold stress and negative emotions in our pelvis” (Yoga Journal “Hip Enough?”). Maybe it’s time we all added hip openers to our holiday traditions. Here’s one way to do it:

photo, ball of yarn

A few weeks ago I integrated a hip opening series into my yoga classes. The classes ranged from gentle 55-min hatha to a vigorous 75-min vinyasa class. Regardless of the format, each class received a healthy dose of yin yoga-based hip openers, which left many sighing with relief. As an added bonus, you will notice that some of these also include options to add a subtle heart-opening component, effectively extending the stretch from the quadriceps, up through the hip flexors and pelvis, and into the torso.

My hatha class began with breath-work and slow spinal movement, often referred to as cat-cow. Click here for a description and explanation of the benefits. From there we moved slowly towards Downward-Facing Dog and a wide-legged forward bend that includes a wonderful shoulder stretch: Prasarita Padottanasana C. My vinyasa class began with several long flow sequences based on sun salutations, moved on to held standing asanas, and then settled into seated and reclining asanas. The following asanas served as a transition between standing and seated work for the vinyasa class and the main focus for the hatha class. You can try the entire sequence, or test out one or two of the asanas. As with all yoga practices, the duration of any pose should be determined by your body. You should also feel free to modify and use props as needed.

Dragon Pose

Dragon Pose

Shown above is a version of Dragon Pose, sometimes referred to as “Baby Dragon.” This is a pose I often integrate into opening vinyasas, reaching the arms overhead with palms touching and lifting and opening the chest (sometimes called Crescent Moon). Click on the photo for variations. In designing this sequence, I used Dragon to prepare our bodies for Pigeon (shown below). More flexible students were invited to take both elbows to the floor (called “Dragon Flying Low” on the link). We held this for 5-8 breaths on one side and then moved into Pigeon on the same side.

photo of pigeon pose

Pigeon Pose

For Pigeon Pose, “Flexies” were invited to fold forward (click on the image for instructions) or move into One-Leg King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). Please note: any version of pigeon can be extremely difficult or painful for many people, but it becomes much more user-friendly if a folded blanket or a rolled mat is placed under the forward (front) butt-cheek and thigh. We held this pose a bit longer–8-10 breaths–to allow those wanting to fold forward an opportunity to sit with this a bit before going deeper. After moving through Dragon and Pigeon on the first side, we rested in Child’s Pose for about 5 breaths. We then repeated Dragon and Pigeon on the second side, and then rested in Child’s Pose once again.

photo of sphinx pose

Sphinx Pose

In order to ease the spine into the held extension that comes with Half Frog (Ardha Bhekasana), I had us pause in Sphinx Pose, a yin alternative to Cobra (click on the image for a detailed discussion of Sphinx and Seal, which involves a much deeper compression of the lumbar vertebrae and is therefore not suitable for everyone). I invited my participants to add a little extra padding (either under the pubic bone and thighs or the elbows and abdomen). We did not hold this for very long, since Half Frog also involves spinal extension and resting considerable body weight on one forearm or hand.

For Half Frog, imagine you are shifting gears on a car with manual transmission. We started in neutral: grasping the right foot with the right hand. First gear: those who could easily reach their foot then gently moved the right foot towards the right buttock. After 3-5 breaths, we went back into neutral. Then, for those with the flexibility, 2nd gear: the foot moved towards the outside of the hip and the heal aims for the floor. Note: the hand position in this pose can be very uncomfortable for the wrist, shoulder, and foot. I offered the option of simply placing the palm on the top of the foot. Click on the image or the source link for detailed directions.

Saving the (almost) best for (almost) last: Cat Pulling Its Tail. Can I tell you how much I love this pose? Honestly, every time I do this pose I wonder why I don’t do it every morning before I crawl out from under the covers and every evening before I crawl under them. It’s just that good.

So if you have been reading this post thinking it confirms that yoga is not for you, give me 3 minutes more. Click on the image or the source link, find a warm and cozy spot on the floor, and maybe try this pose–especially the reclining version shown in the image–if you can. Relax. Try lingering a bit in your exhalations so that they last a second or two longer than your inhalations. Hold each side for 30-60 seconds. Then roll onto your back. Let your feet and legs flop open. Let your arms rest by your sides. Close your eyes.

The weather might still be frightful, but (hopefully) your body will feel delightful!

cutcaster-photo-100361826-Christmas-snowflakePS: my Indiegogo “Birthday for Giving Campaign” is still running–click on the snowflake for details!

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Pushing (Up and) Through the Holidays

One of my friends has an annual Black Friday party called the Night of Many Wines. He provides some bottles, guest bring some bottles–beer, wine, bourbon … In the past, I have referred to this particular event as the Day of Many Hangovers. Maybe I’m getting wiser and not just older, because for some reason I only had one glass this year. Yet unbeknownst to me more than booze was brewing at the party.

The next day my boyfriend casually asked if I wanted to join him (a Body Pump instructor) and our friend Pedro (an elite cyclist) in the December Pushup Challenge they had devised the night before. I have to admit, I hesitated a bit when he revealed their goal of 5000 pushups in 31 days (approximately 161 a day). But maybe I was just feeling smug for exercising restraint the night before, because I said yes.

cartoon of Santa doing pushups

If he can, you can too!

December 1 went well. Sundays I teach a 9 am class called Power Pump. The participants are enthusiastic, dedicated, and really strong, so I usually incorporate push ups into the class. We did 48 in 4 sets of 12 throughout the class. I threw in a few more before my 10:30 am cycling class, a few more before lunch, and suddenly the count was up to 100–and it wasn’t even noon!

Later in the day, my boyfriend knocked out 140 while watching football and drinking beer (!). At practically the same instance Pedro sent me a text–something about doing “7 sets of 30 in about 10 minutes” after one of his epic rides. Despite feeling like the weakest link in this fitness chain and struggling to push through 100 more (Pedro’s tip: front-loading early will allow for a break later), it was starting to seem like fun. In fact, being part of a team was so inspiring that I started a Facebook group and began inviting people to join. Right about now you’re probably wondering why anyone would make such a crazy commitment during the holidays.

illustration of muscles worked during push ups

Muscles Worked By Push Ups

Here’s the lowdown:

  1. Push ups are a phenomenal compound exercise. They work far more muscles than you might imagine as you can see from the illustration above (click on the image to be taken to an article that explains the benefits and offers several variations on traditional push ups).
  2. In addition to functional fitness, core stability, and muscular strength, push ups help women build or maintain bone density.
  3. Push ups do not require any equipment and can be done almost anywhere–case in point: Monday found me sneaking in a quick 20 while waiting for the elevator at my dentist’s office. For convenience alone, they are the perfect exercise for a hectic holiday season.
  4. Push ups, like most forms of exercise, do get easier over time. In fact, one member of our group posted on day 2 “getting a tiny smidge easier tonight.” By Day 4 she had surpassed her initial daily goal (go Alice!).

invitation cardCurious? Convinced? Join our December Push Ups Challenge or start your own group. Remember that joining a group brings the added benefits of accountability and support. In our group, people are setting their own personal goals. For some people this means 1000 in a month (33 a day), some feel 10 on the knees will be a serious challenge, and my crazy friend Ron is doing 1500 a day. You can also set a different kind of goal (like 20 in a row by the 31st), which will allow members to start with a comfortable number and build up over the weeks. Of course, you can also keep an eye on our Facebook group, see how we fare over the coming weeks, and propose your own New Year’s Challenge while the champagne is flowing.

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Giving Back

photo of baked carnival squash

Roasted Maple Vanilla Carnival Squash

As I mentioned in my previous two posts, I started an Indigogo campaign for my birthday. Because today is #GivingTuesday, I thought it was only right for me to give something in return for asking readers to donate to my cause. So here is a quick recipe to make your winter a little warmer:

Maple Vanilla-Glazed Carnival Squash (2 whole carnival, delicata, or small acorn squashes)

  • preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • wash your squashes, slice them in half, and remove seeds
  • slice the squash halves into uniform slices (I cut them into sixths)
  • remember: the thinner the slices, the more quickly they will cook – and the more glaze per slice
  • place the slices on a lightly greased or parchment-covered baking sheet (I used a pizza pan)
  • loosely cover the pan with foil, place in the oven, and bake for about 20 min
  • while squash are baking, mix maple syrup and vanilla in a small bowl
  • NOTE: I used about a tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/2 tsp of Dominican vanilla extract. This will seem like an extreme amount of vanilla; it is. But this was the total glaze I used for all the squash. If you want a sweeter dish but don’t want an overwhelming vanilla flavor, try 1/4 cup of maple syrup with 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • check the squash after 20 min. If they are soft and starting to brown, remove them from the oven. Turn them so that the center (hollow) is face up. Lightly brush with syrup (or pour it on). I also put a tiny dab of butter in the center of each
  • return to the oven for 5-15 minutes until the squash golden and the glaze is sizzling

As always, thank you for visiting my blog. Please take a minute to read about my campaign. If you are inspired, please consider donating. Every dollar counts, and today Indiegogo is kicking in $1 for every $20 that I collect midnight to midnight PST. And please pass along this campaign to any animal-lovers you know:

elephant giving flowers

Click for the Link

Thank you!!!

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Birthday Campaign Goes Live

photograph of baby elephant with prosthetic

Mosha, the inspiration for the Elephant Parade — Click for a short video

I am so excited – my Birthday for Giving campaign for The Asian Elephant Foundation just went live! You can read more about it in the previous post. While the campaign won’t dominate my blog, I will give periodic updates as it continues.

If you love animals or have enjoyed any of my previous posts, please consider donating $5 (roughly the price of a peppermint mocha) to a wonderful cause. What’s more, donations pledged on Tuesday December 3 will be matched at 5% by Indiegogo as part of #GivingTuesday. Thank you for reading this, and please pass it along!

smiling cupcake image

Click to be taken to the campaign

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Birthday for Giving

generosity-as-a-strategy

People always ask, “What do you want for your birthday?” or “How are you going to celebrate?” Since my birthday is November 30, I have been thinking about this quite a lot. I knew there wasn’t really anything I wanted, and after years of bar crawling and all-night dancing (on occasions not limited to my or anyone else’s birthday) I really wasn’t interested in painting the town. What I do want is something that makes a genuine contribution. I’m not a billionaire, so I won’t be able to build a hospital or arts center, but we can all do something to help leave the world in better, fairer, and more beautiful condition than when we first arrived. Right?

It turns out that Tuesday December 3–the Tuesday following my birthday–is #GivingTuesday! What is Giving Tuesday? From their website: “#GivingTuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.” Learning about #GivingTuesday and their partnership opportunities with Indiegogo inspired me to turn my birthday into an occasion to do something positive. I figured if all my friends, family, and fitness participants contributed $5 to a cause instead of buying me a cappuccino, a fancy cocktail (which would be more like $10 anyway), or even a card, I could collect around $500!

Choosing the cause was easy. I love elephants, and because of the recent surge in poaching, their plight had been all over the news. Choosing the organization, however, proved rather difficult. There are countless, wonderful foundations dedicated to elephants–everything from the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, which houses retired zoo and circus elephants to Soraida Sawala’s amazing Elephant Hospital in Thailand, which adopts orphaned baby elephants and has provided prosthetic limbs to animals injured by landmines.

One of my key considerations was convenience. I couldn’t choose a charity that didn’t accept U.S. dollars or required a complicated bank transfer to a foreign bank. I’ve done that myself once before to pay for a yoga retreat in Veracruz–and while the process made me feel like James Bond, it’s a bit complicated, complicated enough to deter potential donors. I ultimately decided on The Asian Elephant Foundation. TAEF not only supports Soraida’s work, they also work in tandem with the Elephant Parade, which is an international open-air art exhibit that brings awareness to the Asian elephant and raises funds for all of TAEF’s projects. I was lucky enough to visit the first U.S. Elephant Parade in Dana Point, CA this past October.

photo of me at the U.S. Elephant Parade

Floppy and me at the Elephant Parade!

Since we had visited the Elephant Parade as a sort of early birthday celebration for me, it seemed only right to use my real birthday to give back to the organization that made the parade possible. I am so excited to share with you my first (and hopefully annual) Birthday for Giving. The Birthday for Giving campaign is live and will last for approximately 30 days. Click on the image to see it.

photo of cupcake

Click on the image, please!

More information, more yoga, and more recipes forthcoming!

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Stone Soup 2: Red Lentil Soup Plus More Roasted Vegetables

photo of red lentil soup

Mmm, soup

Sunday was bitingly cold. Although we had enjoyed an unseasonably mild fall, yesterday brought a rude reminder of winter’s imminent arrival. I took stock of what we had lying around the kitchen and thought about what I could make with those ingredients (to avoid having to bike to the nearest grocery store and freezing my face and hands).

Photo of soup ingredients

Hmm, what can I make with this?

A quick survey revealed the makings of Turkish red lentil soup. The prospect of dipping into mercimek çorbası made me particularly happy because a dear friend has been on my mind a lot lately. She has been living in Istanbul for the past few years, but the lentils in my cupboard reminded me of how her eyes lit up when we discovered an authentic bowl from a local restaurant when she was back in Philly.

chopped carrots, celery, scallions, and garlic

mirepoix, improvised

For basic guidelines, I used a recipe from the Whole Foods website: Whole Foods Market Turkish Red Lentil Soup. Here is my improvised list of ingredients–Janielle, I hope you approve:

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp marash pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cube no-salt vegetable broth (makes 2 cups)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt to taste

I heated the olive oil over medium heat in my favorite Le Creuset dutch oven. Once the oil started to shimmer I threw in the cumin, paprika, and marash pepper. After a few stirs (the spices become fragrant almost immediately) I added the “mirepoix” (vegetables). I stirred that a bit, dropped the heat to low, and covered the pot. After the vegetables softened (really only a few minutes), I added the remaining ingredients except the tomato paste and salt. Le Creuset recommends not cooking on high heat, since cast iron is such an excellent conductor. I cranked the heat to medium high, put on the lid, and let the soup come to a boil. As soon as the soup started to boil I stirred in the tomato paste, dropped the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 20 min.

At this point I turned off the heat because my boyfriend and I were due to meet a friend at a local watering hole. The great thing about soup is that you can just let it sit–it’s only going to get better as the flavors develop.

Fast forward a few hours (and glasses of wine), and I’m back home and somewhat peckish despite snacking on roasted broccolini, gravlax, and spiced peanuts (Philadelphia boasts some truly wonderful gastropubs). I spy a third of a head of cauliflower, a small bagful of brussel sprouts, and–daring me to make something of them–a bag of bright red radishes leftover from an old farm share.

Thirty minutes later I am nibbling on mixed roasted vegetables and looking forward to easy dinners over the next few days:

  • brussel sprouts–quartered, tossed with sliced shallots, about a tablespoon each of sesame oil and soy sauce, then lightly glazed with about a teaspoon of honey
  • cauliflower–cut into florets, tossed with quartered kalamata olives, a tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkling of marash pepper, and sea salt
  • radishes–quartered, tossed with a teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of thyme and sea salt

photo of roasted vegetables

Coming soon: a recent hip sequence that had participants sighing, and how I am turning my birthday into an opportunity for giving. Meanwhile, safe travels and happy holidays to all!

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