Eat-Your-Veggies Lentil Soup

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‘Tis the season of sugary snacks, tipsy drinks, and uber delicious, fat-laden appetizers. I love it, the kids love it, and frankly I’m skeptical of anyone who claims NOT to enjoy the nutritional free for all that tends to be December.

BUT… sometimes we need a break from the festive dining, a healthy and hearty “reset.” Enter Eat-Your-Veggies Lentil Soup.

This soup is perfect “10” nutritionally. Simply put, there is nothing in this recipe that ISN’T good for you! The lentils themselves are chock full of fiber, protein, and iron. Carrots, greens, and salsa veggies offer a rainbow of vitamins and minerals. In earlier posts, we’ve discussed the powerful anti-angiogenic properties of onions, garlic, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cumin. There’s a whole lot to love in this soup… and it tastes terrific!

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Dried Red Lentils

Ingredients (Makes 1 big pot)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 carrots (2 orange and 2 yellow, if possible), chopped

1 tablespoon grated frozen turmeric root (or 1 teaspoon dried ground turmeric)

1 tablespoon grated frozen ginger root (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger)

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Grated Frozen Turmeric Root

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 3/4 cups dried red lentils

6 cups water

2 cups salsa

2 cups packed greens (spinach, kale, etc.), chopped

Plain Greek yogurt, balsamic vinegar, and parsley to garnish

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Directions

Step 1) Saute the first eight ingredients in a large stockpot over low-medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Add lentils and water. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 – 40 minutes or until lentils and carrots are almost tender. If soup becomes too thick, add additional water, 1/2 cup at a time.

Step 3) During last five minutes of cooking, add salsa and chopped greens. Stir well.

Step 4) Ladle soup into serving bowls. Top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.

Sugarplums

If you’re familiar with the Christmas classic, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, you’ll remember these lines:

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads

But what on earth is a “sugarplum?” Simply put, it’s an old fashioned candy made very simply out of dried fruits and nuts.  If you’re looking for something fun to bring to a holiday party or a family dinner, give these a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Ingredients

Ingredients (Makes 24, 1 inch sugarplums)

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup dried fruit (any combination of raisins, dates, or figs)

1 cup shelled, unsalted nuts (I used almonds and walnuts)

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or substitute cinnamon)

2 tablespoons honey

Dried, shredded coconut and/or course sugar crystals for rolling

Directions

Step 1) Combine all dried fruit, nuts, and cardamom in a small blender or food processer and blend until smooth.

Step 2) Drizzle in honey and combine until mixture holds together.

Step 3) Roll mixture into 1 inch balls, then roll in coconut or sugar to coat.

Step 4) Let sugarplums sit out uncovered for several hours, to firm up a bit.

Step 5) Sugarplums may be stored in an airtight container for one week, or frozen for one month.

Bonus

Are you entertaining folks on paleo diets? As long as you roll these in unsweetened coconut (no sugar crystals), sugarplums are a paleo treat!

Brandied Pears

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Pears.  Brandy.  Pears preserved in brandy, in you very own kitchen.  Fa la la la la, la la la la.

If this isn’t just about the perfect homemade holiday gift, I don’t know what is.  Brandied pears are simple and quick – perfect for the busy holiday season.  A bottle of lower shelf brandy will set you back $15 or so, but divided among 8 gift jars, that’s less than $2 per jar.  You may even have a bit left over.  I’m sure you’ll find a way to use it up, somehow.

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Ingredients (makes 8 pint jars)

6 pounds of firm pears

4 cups of brandy

8 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cups of sugar

4 cups of water

Directions

Step 1) Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Simmer over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.

Step 2) Peel and core pears.  Slice as desired.  I prefer 1/2 inch thick slices, as shown in the jars above.  If you prefer to leave your pears quartered or even halved, that’s fine.

Step 3) Pack pears into sterilized, pint size canning jars.  Pack the jars as tightly as you can without mashing the pears!

Step 4) Add 1/2 cup of brandy and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to each jar.

Step 5) Finish filling each jar with your sugar and water mixture, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.

Step 6) Poke a spoon or other tool into the bottom of each jar to remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims clean, and top with lids and bands.

Step 7) Process jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, and check seals before giving as gifts!

These brandied pears will taste best if allowed to sit in their sealed jars for a few weeks before opening.  Serve them over ice cream, in crepes, or right out of the jar as part of a festive buffet.  Happy Holidays!

Level Up Your Gingerbread Game with Speculaas Wreath Cookies!

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If you enjoy a classic gingerbread cookie, I know you’ll adore these speculaas wreaths! Speculaas are Dutch spiced cookies in a wide variety of shapes, the most common of which are better known as windmill cookies. Whether you cut them into wreaths or windmills, these delightful cookies get their signature flavor from a spice blend called Speculaaskruiden. It’s easy to blend yourself (see recipe below). In a pinch you can substitute pumpkin pie spice mix, though the flavor will be slightly different.

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Ingredients (makes about 36 wreath cookies)

1 cup real butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons Speculaaskruiden spice mix (see recipe, below)

For the icing:

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

2 drops green food coloring

Green sugar crystals (for decorating)

Small cinnamon candies (for decorating)

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Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add egg and mix well.

Step 2) Add flour, baking powder, salt, and Speculaaskruiden.  Mix by hand; dough will be stiff.

Step 3) Chill dough for at least one hour before rolling 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface.  Cut dough into wreath shapes, and carefully transfer to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Step 4) Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Step 5) While cookies are cooling, blend together butter, powdered sugar, and milk to make icing. Spoon 1/4 cup of icing into a plastic sandwich bag, and snip a tiny corner from the bag to make a homemade pastry bag. You should be able to easily squeeze icing from the bag and onto each cookie wreath, as shown above. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more milk. If the icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Step 6) After piping icing onto your cookie wreaths, sprinkle them with green sugar crystals. Place a cinnamon candy on each wreath. Beautiful!

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 Speculaaskruiden Spice Mix (makes enough for three batches of cookies)

Stir together (if using powdered spices) or grind together in a coffee grinder (if using whole spices):

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon star anise

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Cookies


win_20161202_165101My mother makes these delightful bites of holiday goodness every December… they are a Christmastime comfort food here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. There is no flour in these cookies, making them perfect for friends who eat mostly paleo but are still game for an occasional cheat. No-bake cookies are also perfect for those inevitable occasions when school-age children announce “Tomorrow’s the day I have to bring treats for ____. Sorry I forgot to tell you!”

Ingredients (Makes 3 dozen)

1   6 oz. pkg. of semi sweet chocolate chips

l/3 cup butter

16 large marshmallows

l/2 teas vanilla

1 cup coconut

2 cups rolled quick oats

Super Easy Directions

Melt butter, chocolate and marshmallows in large pot over medium low heat.  Stir occasionally.  Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.  With buttered hands, roll into balls.  Place on waxed paper lined pan and chill.

That’s all there is to it! Enjoy your cookies, and don’t forget your charity cookbooks for holiday gift giving!

Global Recipe Project Cookbook!

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