Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Butternut Squash, Lentil and Chickpea Salad

Yesterday a butternut squash caught my eye at the green grocers. I admit I bought it completely on a whim without a clue what to do with it. I knew I didn't want to just plain roast or mash the squash, but I really wasn't sure how to mix the sweetness of the squash with other ingredients I had in the house. After looking through a lot of recipes I finally decided that I could make a warm salad out of chickpeas, lentils and squash. Most of the recipes I saw leaned towards Indian or Moroccan spices, but I just wasn't into it and wanted something more, well, general. I opted for a lemony flavor and I'm so happy I did! This salad is fantastically light in flavor but filling enough to make a meal out of it. Using the seeds of the butternut squash adds a nice texture as well as making the salad super nutritious.

This recipe takes a while to cook but most of the time is inactive so you can make it while doing something else. The salad is good both hot and cold so if you don't have 40 minutes in a row, make the squash and squash seeds first and then combine it with the chickpea and lentil mixture when you are able.

Butternut Squash, Lentil and Chickpea Salad
1 Butternut Squash
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 cup cooked chickpeas (Rinse well if using canned)
1/2 cup split red lentils
Juice and Zest of 1 lemon
1.5 cups water
Salt to taste
Dash of chili powder
1 bay leaf

The Squash
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350F)
  2. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seed. Rinse the seeds and reserve for later. Prick the squash a few times with a fork.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the squash on the foil, cut side down. Bake for approximately 40 minutes

The Seeds

  1. Thinly spread the squash seeds into a pan and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes

The Lentils and Chickpeas

  1. In a large pot saute the garlic, onion and olive oil until onion is lightly browned
  2. Add the chickpeas, lentils, lemon juice, lemon zest, bay leaf, water, salt and chili powder to the pot.
  3. Cover and bring to a boil
  4. Reduce the heat to low and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed.

Making the Salad

  1. Allow the butternut squash to cool for 15 minutes
  2. Peel the skin from the butternut squash (now that the squash is cooked you can do this with your fingers or a butter knife)
  3. Cut the butternut squash into 1/2 inch cubes
  4. Combine the squash and lentil mixture.
  5. Top with squash seeds

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Total active time: 15 minutes

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Quiche

For the past few weeks I've been on a comfort food kick and have been dying for some rich food. Last week I happened to pick up a cookbook loaded with comfort foods which had a beautiful picture of a chicken and leek quiche. Unfortunately, the recipe had about 20 ingredients and a ridiculously long prep time so I decided I would take matters into my own hands and come up with an easier recipe that required little effort and yet still fit into the comfort food category.

Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Quiche
1 tbs olive oil
1 leek cut into 1/4 inch semi circles
12 mushrooms sliced
2 chicken breasts cut into 1/4 inch cubes
4 eggs
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (low sodium is best)
a splash of white wine (optional)
1 shortcrust pastry shell

Heat the olive oil and saute the leek and mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture into a bowl. In the same pan brown the chicken for about 5 minutes (it doesn't need to cook through but should be browned on the edges) Add the chicken to the vegetable mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Beat the 4 eggs thoroughly using a whisk. Add the can of soup and wine to the egg mixture and whisk until fully blended. Pour the mixture on top of the chicken mixture. Bake the pie at 180 degrees C (350 F) until the top is golden brown (about 40 minutes)
Prep time: about 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thai Curried Chicken Salad

It's January so if you're anything like me you've decided its time to eat healthy and save some money. One of the easiest ways to do both of those at once is to bring a packed lunch to work. Not all offices have microwaves (or at least not microwaves you'd actually want to use) so the lunch possibilities are often limited to things that can be eaten cold, like salads and sandwiches. I must admit I get a bit bored with both so I came up with a recipe that's a bit different, a bit spicy and remains healthy at the same time. This Thai Curried Chicken Salad can be eaten either as a sandwich filling or, if your feeling very virtuous, on top of a salad.

Thai Curried Chicken Salad
3 cooked chicken breast (you can use left overs, store bought or just boil the chicken breasts until they are cooked through)
5 spring onions finely diced
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
3-4 heaping Tablespoons of thick set (or Greek) plain yogurt
1/2 red pepper finely diced
Juice of 1 lime
7 sprigs of coriander finely chopped

Chop the chicken into small bite sized pieces and mix with all other ingredients. For best taste let sit a few hours or overnight before serving.

Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes

Friday, January 9, 2009

Spicy Vegetable Soup

The holiday season is over, and I'm now feeling really guilty about all the excesses of the past few months. The problem is that after eating rich food for weeks my body just doesn't want to be healthy. The old standbys that were always my healthy options just aren't cutting it lately. My palate craves something with a kick, so I've had to find ways of tricking my tongue that what it's eating is rich and full of bad stuff when actually it's really quite healthy. This soup is completely healthy but added chilies give it heat and loads of flavor. This soup can any combination of vegetables as long as the main ingredients stay the same so be adventurous or use what every you have in the fridge. I tend to also add a starch like potatoes or buckwheat which reduces the heat a bit and makes it more filling.

Spicy Vegetable Soup

1 leek
1 portion of chili or capiscum pepper (start with about 1/4 of a pepper and add more if needed)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups of chopped mixed vegetables (Carrots, celery, peas, beans, mushrooms, corn etc)
1/4 cup of buckwheat (or rice, pasta, chopped potatoes, chickpeas, etc)
1 vegetable stock cube
1 can of artichokes in brine
1 can of chopped tomatoes

Roughly chop the leek, the pepper and any vegetables you are using. In a large pot saute the leek and pepper in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables, the stock cube, the buckwheat and enough water to cover everything in the pot and bring to a boil. Add the can of tomatoes and the brine (liquid) from the canned artichokes. Turn heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Cut the artichokes into quarters. When the vegetables are cooked add the artichokes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Cooking time: 20 minutes
Prep time: 15 minutes

Serves 6-8