Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Pesto Orecchiette with Sausage and Pine Nuts

The other day, the Monkey Scientist and I were shopping at Trader Joe's (my favorite) and I found this orecchiette, and I was inspired.  I knew exactly what I wanted to make - and it turned out my intuition was spot on.

Orecchiette (little ears) are a fantastic pasta when you're adding lots of fun ingredients - they're the pasta version of Tostito's Scoops.  My inspiration was to mix healthy spinach with pesto to blend it in and make it delicious.  Then to add some goat cheese for warmth.  To top it with toasted pine nuts for crunch.  And then, add it some seared sausage for protein (the MS loves his protein) and spice.

On a side note, did you notice my new plate?  I was down in the U Street neighborhood a couple of weeks ago when it started POURING on us and we we took cover in an antique store.  They're moving locations, so they were having a big sale.  I got 6 of these plates for $10 - I was pretty excited.  I think they're kind of funky!

The pasta dish is ah-mazing.  How can you go wrong with spicy sausage, pasta, and goat cheese? Really, you can use any sausage you like, but I'm all for spicy sausages like Spicy Italian Chicken and Chorizo. AWESOME.  It filled our bellies after a long day of running around in the rain in Old Town Alexandria.  Is that a theme lately, getting caught in the rain?  If it means enjoying yummy dinners like this, I'm all for it.

Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Pesto Orecchiette with Sausage and Toasted Pine Nuts

1 bag orecchiette (I got mine at Trader Joe's)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 links Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage (...Trader Joe's)
1 link Chorizo (ok this was from Giant!)
2-3 tablespoons prepared pesto (again, Trader Joe's)
1 1/2 cups chopped frozen spinach, defrosted
2 oz goat cheese
3 tbsp pine nuts
freshly ground pepper
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1. Boil pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and return to pot. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil.
2. Chop chicken sausage into 1 inch slices and remove Chorizo from casing and chop with edge of wooden spoon.  Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat, and cook sausage until Chorizo is cooked through and chicken sausage is browned on both sides.
3. Toast pine nuts in a small saute pan over medium heat until just browned.  Watch so that they don't burn!
4.  Add sausage, pesto, spinach, goat cheese, pine nuts, pepper and red pepper flakes to pasta and stir well to combine.  Serve immediately.

P.S. I'm going on vacation until after Labor Day, and the blog is going to vacation with me.  I'll be back and cooking again in September. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Low Fat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

For the 2nd year in a row, we had a big international potluck at work.  Last year, we did it for our colleagues who were training with us from our Chennai office in India.  This year, it was simply because last year was so tasty.

Now last year I went back to my roots - I made my mom's Kugel - but this year...well I was feeling a little lazy, so I made this low fat zucchini bread. It may have turned out great, but making it was a disaster.  I hesitated to even share the recipe with you - but I figured it was probably me. It may have been the size of my loaf pan...I'm not sure.

I thought it'd be a great idea instead of using regular butter (only 2 tbsp) so use Land O' Lakes Cinnamon Sugar butter spread.  I'm going to go ahead and blame this on my demise, although I'm sure I mis-measured something else too.  The bread just never really baked all the way.  And I baked it a good 15 minutes longer than it said.

Well, that was after I took it out of the oven, flipped it over, and the whole middle fell out.  It was totally raw so I put it back on top and baked it more - is that gross? I was so mad.  Baking can be so hit or miss for me - it's either super relaxing or something goes wrong and it's makes me so frustrated.

Anyways, despite the mistakes, it still came out tasting pretty good.  I adjusted the seasoning below to make it ...better... but I didn't change anything else given my disastrous results, but I gave you notes of what I changed. If you try it, please let me know how it comes out - I"m interested to hear if it's me or the recipe! (probably the former) And if you can figure out where I went wrong - PLEASE let me know!

Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
slightly adjusted from Gina's Skinny

1 c all purpose flour (Gina used unbleached, I used regular)
1 c whole wheat flour (Gina used white, I used regular)
1/2 c brown sugar (not packed, which I thought was odd)
1 1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c chocolate chips (note this isn't a whole bag)
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp melted butter (I used Land O'Lakes cinnamon sugar butter spread)
1 c apple sauce (I used unsweetened)
1 1/2 c shredded zucchini (not packed - I didn't squeeze to drain)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl.  Mix well.
3. Add chocolate chips and gently mix to combine.
4. In a medium bowl, mix egg, vanilla, melted butter, apple sauce, and zucchini.  Add to the flour mixture and stir until just blended.
5. Pour the batter into a large 9x5 inch loaf pan (OK I used a normal loaf pan here, how big is that?).
6. Bake at 325 degrees F for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  MAKE SURE IT'S DONE! Cool for about 10 minutes.  Remove loaf from pan and let it cool before slicing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ratatouille? A peasant's dish?


Round here, we LOVE Ratatouille.  You know...the movie?

Ratatouille ingredients

My little brother works as a chef in the summers and used to have long curly hair, and of course has the nose (sorry, Matt) so everyone at the restaurant calls him Linguine. My parents went into the restaurant to eat one day and said they were "Matt's parents" and it took a minute before they said OH LINGUINE'S parents! My mom just loves the nickname.  She even got him this book at a yard sale when I was home in July.

Ratatouille book

Ratatouille also happens to be one of the Monkey Scientist's favorite films.  We both enjoy watching animated films (I may or may not have cried when we watched Toy Story 3 a couple weeks ago) and he couldn't believe I'd never seen Ratatouille when we met!  He brought it back from his parents' house for me when he went home to visit and I just fell in love - what a cute film.


After all this Ratatouille love, I realized I'd never actually had the dish.  When I tried to go for a run this week, I was feeling totally unmotivated.  Then, I ran into my usual farmer's market.  I'd totally forgotten that it's open Tuesdays as well as Saturdays!  Seeing all the fresh vegetables, I just knew it was the night for ratatouille. Plus, one of my coworkers had given me some fresh basil from his garden!


I couldn't BELIEVE what an easy recipe it was!  It's a one-pot meal - throw it in and let it cook.  Totally low maintenance!  Of course, as you can see from my pre-cooking photos, I totally ignored the proportions of the ingredients below and loaded up on the crushed red pepper flakes... recipes are just guidelines right?


Now that we've eaten it, I think I love the dish as much as I love the movie.  It's totally loaded up on flavor.  Plus it has no fat or carbs, yet it's so filling!  I enjoyed having fresh veggies from the farmer's market as well, I think they made it even better.  The Monkey Scientist told me he liked it even better than Remy's!

The only change I'd make? I'd throw a whole bunch of goat cheese on top!  (Definitely doing that with the leftovers!)


from Jenna of EatLiveRun on PBS Blog

3 large tomatoes, diced
2 zucchini, sliced and halved
2 summer squashes, sliced and halved
1 red bell pepper, chopped (I used a yellow bell pepper)
1 small eggplant, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once hot, add the bell pepper, zucchini, and summer squash and saute for about 6-8 minutes until just tender.
2. Add the eggplant and tomatoes and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes until the mixture is thick and stew-like.
3. Add half the basil followed by salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir well, adding more seasoning if you desire.
4. Serve ratatouille with additional fresh basil (and/or goat cheese!) and crusty bread for dipping.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Homemade Taco Seasoning

taco seasoning

Tacos are such a fun and easy weeknight dinner.  Meat, vegetables, shell or lettuce wrap - easy as pie.  And in college, we always flavored that meat with taco seasoning.  Have you ever read the ingredients on taco seasoning?  Check out what Ortega puts in theirs:
Yellow Corn Flour, Salt, Maltodextrin, Paprika, Spices, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural Flavor, Caramel Color (sulfites).

Lots of salt (430 mg). Maltodextrin. Autolyzed Yeast Extract. Caramel Color?  The only other food I know with Caramel color in it is Coca-Cola.  Probably not the best things to be throwing into your ground beef.

Taco Seasoning

As it turns out, making taco seasoning couldn't be easier.  I used all ingredients that I had in my house. I altered it a little below, based on what I had, but feel free to go back to the original recipe and add in some of the things I removed (like onion powder).  I also kicked up the spice for the Monkey Scientist, so feel free to cut back if you're not into that.

taco seasoning

I made the seasoning with these super cute measuring spoons that my mom bought for me. How adorable are they?  I thought about giving you the ingredients in these cutesy measurements, but I figured it might not be that useful.  I just love them though - especially because they remind me of Mom.

taco seasoning

This seasoning is super flavorful - we loved it.  I made lettuce wrap tacos to cut down on the carbs (and then loaded it with cheese, fair tradeoff!) and thought they were tasty and filling.  The seasoning does make a little more than you need for 1 lb of beef, so I put the extra in a ziploc for another day.  Make sure you label it!  Then you can have an easy weeknight dinner, and without all those unnatural ingredients and extra salt, in no time!

lettuce wrap taco with homemade seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning
adapted from Food Renegade

1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika (I used sweet)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all spice and use to season your favorite taco meat!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

S'mores Brownies

S'mores Brownies

Do you ever have those days where you just feel like you need to pull a Sandra Lee?  You know, when you're craving a baked good but can't bring yourself to make it from scratch?

Graham Cracker Crust

I totally just had one of those days.  Everything in this recipe (brownies, marshmallows, graham crackers) could totally be made from scratch.  And I totally encourage you to do that... if you have loads of time and energy on your hands.  I, obviously, did not.

Smores Brownies

Given my major shortcuts, the biggest difficulty in making these brownies is that I did it at the Monkey Scientist's new apartment.  Where he doesn't have any measuring cups.  Or sugar.  Not exactly the ideal baking environment, but we got creative.

Smores Brownies

Before I went over there, I measured out exactly 1/4 cup of sugar and ziploc-ed it.  Then, I filled a large shot glass with the sugar and marked where 1/4 cup was.  Fortunately, everything in this recipe was in increments of 1/4 cup (1/2 cup, 1 cup) so it worked out perfectly...although it felt a bit chaotic at the time.

Smores Brownies

The best part of baking at the MS's apartment? I didn't have these brownies on my counter all week.  If I did, I probably would have eaten the whole tray.  They were hard enough to resist when I was at his place!  I should warn you to really watch the marshmallows - I put them in for 2 min and opened the door to release a cloud of smoke...and then had to peel off the top layer of marshmallows.  Totally worth it - they were delicious.

Smores Brownies

S'mores Brownies
from BrownEyedBaker

for the Graham Cracker Crust
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used from a box, here's a homemade recipe)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

for the Brownies
1 batch brownie batter (I used from a box, here's a homemade recipe)
1 bag mini marshmallows (or make your own)
Additional graham crackers, broken into pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan.  Line the pan with foil, leaving some overhang, and then butter the foil; set aside.

2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, salt, and sugar, mixing well.  Add the melted butter and, using a fork, toss until the entire mixture is moist. Dump the graham cracker mixture into the prepared baking pan, pressing it into an even layer. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

3. Meanwhile, prepare your brownie recipe. Pour the brownie batter over the cooked graham cracker crust, spreading it into an even layer. Bake the brownies according to the directions.

4. As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, switch the oven to broil.  Pour the bag of mini marshmallows onto the brownies, covering it in an even layer. Pop the pan back into the oven for a minute or two.  KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THEM - you want them to char so you get that s'mores flavor but they will burn quickly.

5. Cool completely and then cut into squares.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Simple Lunch: Salad with Goat Cheese, Cukes, and Tahini

Based on the fact you don't see a new blog post every day, you must realize I don't make a big extravagant dish for every meal.  A lot of things are so simple they don't seem blog-worthy.  Sometimes, though, the most simple dishes are exactly what you're looking for and all you need is a little inspiration!

When I don't have much time to throw something together - which is almost always the case in the morning when I'm making my lunch - I love to make a simple salad.  I'm not a big salad dressing person (the ingredient list always frightens me) so finding new inspiring ways to top my salad is always a big challenge.  Often I go with some fresh squeezed lemon and garlic salt, but lemons get really expensive when you can't grow them yourself!  This week, I tried topping it with tahini paste and hot sauce - it was a fun, healthy, flavorful alternative to dressing.

I hope my recipe will inspire some new ingredients for your salad (I was inspired by my falafel burgers!).  I meant to add raisins but forgot at the last minute.  I would have loved to add some bell pepper (I used to hate these when I was younger, now I can't stop eating them!) but I had run out.  You can just feel free to use anything you have on hand!

Simple Salad with Goat Cheese, Cucumbers, and Tahini

1 cup lettuce (I used mixed baby greens)
2 tbsp goat cheese
1/4 c cucumbers, sliced
1 1/2 tbsp tahini paste
8 dashes hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/3 tsp garlic salt
freshly ground pepper

1. In a large bowl or tupperware, combine lettuce, goat cheese, and cucumbers.
2. Drizzle tahini over veggies and cheese. Dash with hot sauce. Sprinkle with ginger powder, garlic salt, and pepper.
3. Place lid on tupperware, or a plate over the bowl, and shake well to mix all the ingredients. (Make sure lid is on or you're holding the plate tight so you dont have salad all over the floor!)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Falafel Burgers

Falafel burgers

My old friend from summer camp came over for another vegetarian meal this week (and a sleepover!).  I love when she comes for dinner because it really makes me think outside the box and try new vegetarian recipes that I might not have otherwise. I was a vegetarian for 4 years when I was younger, but I never really experimented with recipes like I do now.  The ability to search for interesting recipes on the blogosphere has made vegetarian cooking a lot more fun!


I learned yesterday from a coworker that there are 2 types of falafel, Israeli and Indian.  I am accustomed to eating the Israeli kind - it's what they always served at one of my favorite sub shops growing up.  They might have been Greek, but MAN they made good falafel.  Then, when I went to Israel I finally tasted the Israeli falafel street food.  It just might have been my favorite part of Isreal.  Why America went for hot dogs instead of falafel is beyond me.


I digress... these burgers are the Indian type of falafel, hense the tumeric.  I love the beautiful yellow color that the tumeric gives to these burgers. I left out the coriander because I don't like coriander/cilantro and therefore didn't have any.  I didn't miss it at all - these still had tons of flavor - although I did add freshly ground pepper which it didn't call for.

Tahini Sesame Paste

I need to just take a minute here to talk about this tahini.  I'd never bought tahini before, and I do NOT know why.  It's like peanut butter, but with a sesame flavor. It's divine. I bought this at the Asian market, H-Mart, but I think you can find it in your regular grocer as well.  Now I'm on a mission - what else can I make with tahini?

falafel burgers

Tahini also went great with hot sauce - which leads me to the bargain of the day.  Even though the sign isn't posted, Frank's Red Hot is on sale at Giant this week for $1.99 plus on you can find a $0.50 off coupon (which Giant will double).  Usually over $3 and this week you can get it for $1!


The verdict?  They were approved by my camp friend.  And me too!  They have tons of subtle, warm flavors, complemented well by the nutty tahini paste and a little kick from the jalapeño and hot sauce. Although we ate them for dinner, they'd make a great lunch by the pool.  We served them up with salad while enjoying the sunset over the Washington monument from my balcony - it was the perfect close to the day.  While it was very different from the falafel on the streets of Tel Aviv, it tasted SO much healthier (not deep fried) and absolutely delicious.

Falafel burgers

Falafel Burgers
From Jenna of Eat Live Run on PBS blog

1 15-oz can chickpeas
½ red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of olive oil (divided)
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup tahini
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 egg white

1. In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, 2 tsp of olive oil, lemon juice and tahini. Blend well and scoop out into a large bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat up 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Once hot, add the onions and jalapeno and sauté for about six minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute until toasty and fragrant. Add coriander and tumeric and mix well.
3. Add onion mixture to the chickpea mixture and stir well to combine. Add the salt, egg white and breadcrumbs and mix well.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in the same skillet as before. Form patties with the chickpea mixture and fry for about three-four minutes per side, until golden and crunchy. Drain on paper towels.
5. Serve falafel burgers in warm whole wheat pitas with tahini sauce, hot sauce and sliced red onion.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Duck and Chorizo Risotto

Duck and Chorizo Risotto

I have always had a love affair with duck.  I'm pretty sure it runs in our family.  My dad's brother has 4 kids, and had very similar bar/bat mitzvah parties for each of them...same caterer and location etc.  I distinctly remember my brother, who was young at the time, talking about the duck that they'd serve at the reception on the whole drive to Connecticut, and practically running to the duck serving station after the ceremony.  I'm almost sure he's counting down the days until the youngest is bat mitzvahed.

Duck cooking in broth and ancho chile powder

For me, there are just some dishes made very special by duck.  I'll never eat at California Pizza Kitchen again, since they took their amazing duck pizza off the menu.  And I cannot wait to go to New York with my coworker to try the duck she raves about at one of her favorite Chinese restaurants.  Proteins can become so monotonous  but, especially because we eat it less frequently, I find that duck has such a unique flavor. It's fatty and sweet and simply delicious.

Unfortunately, the Monkey Scientist won't eat duck.  Ducklings are one of those cute little animals with a family unit, and he's not into it.  I keep telling him I only buy "childless, old maid" ducks, but he's not buying it.  Oh well, more for me!

Pulled duck

When PW posted this recipe, and said it was originally from David Leite's cookbook, I knew it had to be made.  If a recipe sounds good, and it's a collaboration of chefs from 2 of your favorite blogs, I think that's a sign. Go home and make it.  I obeyed. It's important to obey signs.


Surprisingly, I can almost always find duck at my local grocery store.  It's usually sold near the organic or not-so-normal proteins (like where the lamb and bison is sold).  Each piece (a leg or breast) is sold individually and cryo-vaced, shipped in from our neighbors to the north (yes, Canadian duck...old maid, childless Canadian duck, now will you eat it?).  It's actually relatively cheap (a leg was a little over $2) especially because you can buy exactly the amount you want.


For whatever reason, I totally misread the ingredients before I went to the store and didn't get enough chicken stock.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I almost never buy stock in a can either, but I was feeling cheap I guess. It was no matter, I supplemented with water and added a little ancho chile powder for extra flavor.  Since it was mixed with the can of stock, and the duck cooked it in, I thought it was plenty flavorful.  In retrospect, I would have used all stock.... next time. You live and you learn.

Duck and Chorizo Risotto 016

Now normally, I love making risotto.  I think there's just something special about a meal that you tend to the whole time it's cooking - you can really taste the love.  However, the AC in my apartment does NOT reach my kitchen and man-oh-man did I get hot making this one.  I have a magnet thermometer on my fridge that was off the scale (it only goes to 85).  I was melting.  But it was worth it.

Duck and Chorizo Risotto

This meal was absolutely delicious.  The sweetness of the duck and the orange, the spiciness and smokiness of the chorizo, the creaminess of the risotto - it all blended in perfect harmony.  This was one of those meals that my parents and brother would devour. I thought the extra kick from the red pepper flakes at the end was totally necessary.  It may have been the best risotto I've ever made - and it didn't even have cheese in it! Maybe it was better that I didn't have to share!

Duck and Chorizo Risotto

Duck and Chorizo Risotto
adapted from David Leite on Pioneer Woman

1 tbsp olive oil
2 whole duck legs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp ancho chile powder
1 chorizo sausage, removed from casing
1 whole small yellow onion, minced
1 c Arborio rice
1/4 c dry white wine
Juice of 1 orange
Zest of one orange
Crushed red pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the duck legs well with salt and pepper. When the skillet is hot, add the duck pieces, skin side down and sear until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the legs to a medium pot and cover with chicken stock. Simmer, covered, over low heat, until the meat is tender, 1-1/2 hrs.
2. Drain most of the duck fat from the skillet but do not throw out. Add sausage to skillet and sauté over medium heat until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels and drain fat into jar with the duck fat. Wipe skillet clean.
3. Transfer the duck legs to a plate and shred into bite sized pieces. Set aside. Spoon the fat from the top of the stock and bring to a simmer over low to medium low heat.
4. Add 1 tbsp of duck/chorizo fat back to skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice to coat, and cool until translucent around the edges, about 2 minutes. Splash in wine and cook until absorbed. Add a ladleful of hot stock and cook, stirring continuously, until the liquid has almost burbled away. Keep up this rhythm of adding stock, stirring, and cooking until the rice is tender but offers just the slightest bite of resistance in the middle and almost all the stock has been absorbed.
5. Stir in sausage and duck, then add orange juice and stir until absorbed. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Add in orange zest and serve.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lentil Pot Pie

Lentil Pot Pie

I know, yet again, it's been a while.  I know you've felt neglected, and I'm sorry. I have some excuses.

For one, I had some terrible stomach thing going on where I'd be starving, I'd eat 2 bites and be full.  It was not fun.  Then, I had to enjoy my last few times going out to eat in DC with one of my favorite coworkers, who's left me to move to New Haven and work from home. We also had to go out to dinner to say goodbye to the Monkey Scientist's roommates, some of whom have left us for med school.  It was a big Chinese-food-in-Rockville week. And after all that, the Monkey Scientist has been moving into a new apartment and I've been trying to help him.  There was lots of packing and box-carrying.  I really hadn't cooked anything since my roast chicken.

Lentils boil in cayenne with a bay leaf

That's not entirely true, I did make one meal...but it wasn't exactly blog-worthy and I didn't exactly have time/energy to take photos.  The night we moved the MS into the new apt, at 10 pm when we were exhausted and starving, I cooked with the only food he moved from the old house.  Which was frozen fish, Ritz crackers, and spices.  I defrosted the fish, crushed and seasoned the crackers with Caribbean jerk seasoning, coated the fish with the crumbs, added some olive oil and baked.  See, not blog-worthy. (But yes, I was impressed with myself for throwing that one together!)

Lentils boiling

To be honest, I wasn't even really going to cook dinner again last night, but I had this great idea.  Really, my idea was to make up my own recipe with lentils and puff pastry, which I already had at home.  I was going to cook the lentils with onions and then add tomato paste and somehow wrap them up in puff pastry... well I wasn't quite sure.  So I googled "lentils puff pastry" and this is what came up.

Veg and Bacon, prepped

When I made it, I realized it looked a lot like pot-pie, so that's why I named it that.  Plus, my Lentil Sheperd's Pie was such a hit, I figured this could be like a follow up post.  If you liked that you'll like this - it also is a great way to use lentils, is SUPER inexpensive to make, has a warm, comfort food feel, and tastes great!   And of course, I kicked the spice factor way up in both recipes.  If you're not a spice person, you can leave out all the cayenne and red pepper flakes I added here (but that'd be bo-ring!).  The one comfort food joy it does lack that goo (...err gravy?) inside a real chicken pot pie.  I need to work on that.

Veg and Bacon, browned and cooked down

So some caveats.... The puff pastry was left over and the box was already open, so it was a little dried out.  It tasted fine, but that's why it looks crackled in the pictures.  Also, the original recipe called for French green lentils.  Being the good American I am, I used American brown lentils.  I think they cook a lot quicker than the French green ones, so I adjusted the recipe that you see below from the original - mainly that I didn't soak them.  The lentil bag said I didn't have to! Just be aware depending on the kind of lentils you use.  Finally, I added bacon because...well like I said I'm a good American.  If you're a vegetarian, you can totally take it out. But then it won't taste at all like bacon...which may be a crime.

Lentil Pot Pie filling

The MS was working pretty late, so I prepped the filling earlier in the evening and then brought it over to the new apartment to add the dough topping and bake them.  This worked out perfectly (can you see his new kitchen in the background of some of the photos?).  The filling filled all the ramekins I have (2 big, 4 little) with some leftover.  The puff pastry only covered the ones I filled, but I probably could have rolled it out thinner to cover one extra.  The MS ate 2 big ramekins, and I ate 1 little for dinner, in case you're wondering how many portions you'll get.

Lentil Pot Pies - ready for the oven!

This one was a pretty good recipe.  When they were fresh out of the oven, I was thinking some cheese probably could have helped this.  If you make your own puff pastry, maybe add some shredded cheddar into the dough.  As I mentioned, I would have liked a little more liquid as well.  There has to be some way to imitate the gravy in pot pie for these.  I think the extra spice was totally necessary to give it good flavor. I enjoyed this one - and the little pies are super cute! A big version would be a good thing to bring to Thanksgiving (and man that's coming up sooner than I'd like to believe!).

Lentil Pot Pie

Lentil Pot Pie
adapted from Whole Foods

1 1/2 cups lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 dried bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 shallots, finely chopped
10 baby carrots, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 pieces turkey bacon (you can use pork bacon, but then you probably don't need the oil)
Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine (I used Manischewitz)
1/2 package puff pastry, defrosted (you can make your own if you like!)

1. Put lentils in a medium pot with 3 cups water, bay leaf, and 1 tsp cayenne pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender but still hold a little texture, about 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Heat oil over medium heat in a larger pot. Add shallots, carrots, bell pepper, bacon, salt, pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, 7-8 minutes.
4. Add garlic and tomatoes, stir well, then add wine to deglaze.  Scrape up all the bacon goodness.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.
5. Add lentils and any remaining cooking liquid to pot with vegetables.  Simmer over medium low heat, uncovered, until sauce has thickened, 10-15 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and red pepper flakes.
6. Pour lentils into individual ramekins (or one deep pie dish).  On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry dough to 1/8" thickness. Cut into circles just slightly larger than the tops of the ramekins. Place dough over lentils and make a few slashes over the top to allow steam to escape.
7. Bake until golden brown and piping hot, 25-30 min (ramekins on the higher oven racks will be done faster).