Thursday, November 12, 2009

Loving Lentils

Here's another cold-weather favorite of mine. It's a great basic, hearty soup that just begs for creative variations! As with many of my recipes, I started out with something I found on

Lemon Lentil Soup

(Some might even call it "Lebanese-Style")

6 cups chicken stock (I use reduced sodium, fat free or 99% ff)

1 pound red lentils (any color will do, but red is preferred)

1 – 2 teaspoons olive oil (just the barest amount necessary to start your garlic)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Bring chicken stock and lentils to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic. When the aroma of the garlic has been released, add the onion and about ¼ cup or so of the chicken stock (you can dip it out of your soup pot). Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 3 minutes.

Stir the garlic and onions into the lentils and season with cumin and cayenne. Continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 10 minutes.

Carefully puree about half the soup in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth. I used the Magic Bullet and it was very easy. Return the pureed mixture to the pot and heat back to serving temperature. Stir in the fresh cilantro and lemon juice before serving.

The basic soup above is very low in fat (less than 5 grams per cup). It has about 250 calories per cup, but does pack a carb wallop of about 40 grams per cup. They are healthy carbs, though.

I served my hearty soup over brown rice, although it tastes great just the way it comes out of the pot! Couscous makes a great base, as well, and is probably the fastest starch to prepare (next to sliced bread, of course).

Here's a variation that I like with lentil soup: Just before serving, consider stirring in a quick-cooking, wilting vegetable like spinach. Chard or other greens will work well with the lentil flavor, too, but will have to be cooked separately and then added in when tender.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Other White Meat

Wowie zowie! What a dinner we made tonight. Quick as a whip to prepare and oh, so rich and tasty! Got this from my old stand-by,

By using a trimmed pork tenderloin cut into medallions and substituting fat free half and half for the light cream the original recipe called for, this entry clocks in at well under 200 calories and less than 8 grams of fat per 4 oz. serving. Here's how you make it:

Pork Loin with Creamy Herb Sauce

1 tablespoon canola/vegetable oil

1/2 cup minced carrots

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin medallions

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon beef bouillon granules (or finely chop up a cube in your mini food processor)

2/3 cup fat free half and half

1/4 cup dry white wine

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook carrots in oil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add pork, and cook until lightly browned. Remove only pork, and keep warm.

In the skillet, stir together flour, basil, parsley, pepper, and beef granules. Whisk in light cream, stirring until thick. Stir in wine. Return pork to pan, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

We paired this with some baked butternut squash and new potatoes with fresh parsley (used some of the fat I saved for a bit of butter – a dot or two goes a long way). It made a very pretty plate; a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. A green vegetable or salad would be a fine accompaniment as well.

I can think of all sorts of variations to try with this recipe. I'm sure you can, too. Be sure to tell me what worked for you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

They’re Back!

Well, it's been a month and people are starting to wonder . . . yes, I will be blogging. I'd even like stick with my original plan of twice a week. Here's what's been going on with me.

I mentioned in my sidebar that I have psoriatic arthritis. It's like RA in that it's a degenerative auto-immune type of arthritis. Over the past 6 to 8 weeks, the disease process has been very active and my hands and wrists have been most affected. Simply put, I haven't been blogging because it hurts to type! I've started on a new drug and it seems to be helping some, so I'll be putting some short entries out here and trying to get back in the swing.

To help me get started, a friend and tender reader sent me the following guaranteed-tasty recipe. She found it on the Weight Watchers website.

Three Bean and Pork Slow Cooker Chili

(Serves 10)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 c. chopped carrot

1 T. chili powder, medium hot

1 t. dried oregano, crushed

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (don't handle the seeds with your bare hands!) OR 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped

½ t. table salt

½ t. freshly ground black pepper

2 lbs. lean pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1" chunks

15 oz. canned black beans, drained and rinsed

15 oz. canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed

15 oz. canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 c. canned tomato puree

29 oz. canned diced tomatoes, with green pepper, celery and onion, undrained

6 oz. tomato paste

Combine ingredients up through the pepper in (at least) a 5-quart slow cooker and stir. Add the remaining ingredients and stir again. Cover and cook on HIGH setting for 6 to 8 hours. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

As the weather gets nippy, I gravitate towards hearty one-pot meals, so this sounds heavenly to me. Not having to brown and drain the meat before putting it in the crockpot is another big plus! And let's not even mention being able to use my Magic Bullet to chop the onion, garlic and carrot! Finally, it just sounds like it tastes good! I can't wait until the next televised Mizzou Tigers game (be it football OR basketball) to try it out. Thanks!