Spicy Indian Lentil Soup

For our family Easter dinner this year I cooked a big ham. I have been really excited about the possibility of cooking lamb for weeks. It's been a while since I've eaten lamb and Easter has always been a great time to indulge on a whole leg of lamb roast. But after going back and forth we all decided ham would work better for our Easter meal.

Well, I quickly got over the disappointment of a lamb-less Easter once I realized that, "hey, we're going to have a big ol' ham-bone left over"! That can only mean one thing for me: soup's on! You can laugh at me, but I really do get excited about this stuff! So now I just had to decide what kind of soup to make with the ham bone. After going back between cannellini bean soup, pasta fazoli, and cuban black bean soup I finally decided on lentil soup. Now some of you may be thinking "what's so exciting about lentil soup?". Well after just eating a bowl, I'm here to tell you, forget the lamb, forget the cannellini, this soup is the bomb!
Maybe it's that I haven't tasted the rich aromatic and savory flavors of Indian food in some time, but my taste buds had a wakeup call tonight and I remember what I love about food. I love food that makes you stand up and take notice. A good meal is "eventful" and leaves you buzzing about it after it's done. This soup did just that for me and the best thing is that it took me off guard.
Now I've got to warn you, this soup is not for everyone, it's got a lot of strong flavors from the ginger, gram marsala, cardamom, and it's on the spicy side, but hey, your mouth deserves a wake up call today!

Spicy Indian Lentil Soup
Serves 6-8

2 Tbsp vegatable oil
1 medium onion- chopped
3 cloves garlic- minced
2" piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
2 hot peppers(anaheim, jalepeno, etc..), seeded and chopped
sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Garam Masala (note: you can make this spice mixture, or buy it pre-mixed, but the fresher the better)
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cumin
1 bayleaf
1-15 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen spinach- thawed
1 lb. dried lentils (dahl-red lentils or mung dahl-yellow lentils preferred) -washed and picked over
1 Tbsp sugar
8 cups filtered water
1 hambone with(or without) meat

plain yogurt (optional)
mint leaves (optional)

Heat a large pot to medium high with the vegatable oil
Saute the onions for about a minute, until translucent
Stir in the garlic, ginger and hot peppers, sprinkle with salt and pepper
Next mix in the garam masala, cardamom, cumin, and bay leaf
Add the tomatoes, carrots, and spinach and sugar, and lentils, and the hambone stir together well, cook for about 5 minutes
Stir in the water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally
Once it comes to a boil reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour, loosely covered, stirring occasionally
Discard the bay leaf and hambone- If your ham bone has meat on it, cut the meat off into bitesized pieces and return the pieces to the pot.
Serve in a bowl with a dollop of plain yogurt and garnish with fresh mint leaves, or parsley (optional), Enjoy, (mandatory :-)

Ginger Lemon Chicken

I've been playing with variations of this recipe on and off and finally found the right combination of flavors. This dish is Thai inspired, except that instead of using lemon grass, (which I can't find locally) I've used lemon, which isn't as subtle, but merges well with the ginger to give this dish a light citrisy taste which is characteristic of Southeast Asian cuisine.
This recipe calls for a peeled and julienned broccoli stalk, which some may find unusual. When I first started cooking I would cut off the florets and throw out the rest, but then I learned that the stem not only has nutritional value, but also provides a great taste and texture when prepared correctly. I recommend cutting off off the florets and save them for another dish, then peeling off the tough exterior of the stalk and slicing the rest into thin julienned (also called a matchstick) slices.
I've served this dish as a light lunch over a bed of lettuce and some fresh vegetables, and over basmati rice for dinner.

Ginger Lemon Chicken
serves 2-4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast half's
Salt and pepper to taste
@2 tsp powdered ginger
1 lemon, cut into quarters

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion - chopped
@2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, julienned
3 cloves garlic- minced
1 Thai chile pepper or jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
1 broccoli stalk, peeled and julienned
sprig of fresh basil, or parsley (optional)


Place the chicken breast in a bowl, sprinkle it on all sides with salt pepper and the ginger powder, then squeeze the juice from one quarter of the lemon over it, place in a bowl, cover and refrigrate for at least 30 minutes (an hour or more of marinade time is preferable)
Heat a large frying pan to medium high heat with the vegatable oil
Saute the chicken breast in the hot frying pan, for about two minutes on each side, remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board and cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, set aside
Using the same hot frying pan, drop in the onions and saute until translucent
Next stir in the ginger, garlic and chile pepper
Squeeze in one half of the lemon, taking care not to get any seeds in the pan (try squeezing over a fork)
Next mix in the chicken broth, sugar and fish sauce (warning: the fish sauce may smell a bit strong at first, but don't worry it won't taste nearly that strong once it cooks a bit blends with the other flavors)
Let this mixture heat up for a few minutes to almost boiling, then add the chicken (that we set a side earlier), broccoli and carrots, mixing all together well
Continue cooking on medium high heat until the chicken is cooked through, stirring frequently
Serve over rice or a bed of lettuce, squeeze the remaining lemon over top, garnish with chopped fresh basil, or parsley (optional), enjoy!


Swedish Apple Cake

This breakfast cake can be considered a close relative to a pancake, Not only for its somewhat similar ingredients, but also for the fact that you pour the batter into a hot frying pan. I was immediately drawn to it as an alternative to the Saturday morning pancakes I make for my family every week. All three of my girls loved it, and asked for more. I found this recipe on Jill's Hey that Tastes Good blog last month and knew I had to make it! Here is Jill's original Swedish Apple Cake post I've changed mine slightly.
The other thing that I really liked about this recipe is that it reminds me of a baked pancake and apple dish my mother made back when I was a teenager, and there's nothing so compelling in taste as memory!

Swedish Apple Cake
serves 3-4

1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Salt to taste
1 tsp vanilla (or vanilla extract)
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour mix
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
3/4 stick of butter, melted
3 Tbsp applesauce
1/2 apple, cut into thin slices
Sliced almonds (optional)

Frying pan that can be placed in the oven (no rubber or plastic handles)

Spray a frying pan with cooking spray and place it in the oven pre-heated to 350 degrees
Mix eggs with the sugar in a mixing bowl
Stir in the salt, vanilla and almond extract and melted butter
Next mix in the flour mix, cinnamon, allspice, xanthan gum, then add the applesauce.
Once the pan is nice and hot quickly remove it from oven and pour the batter into it, place the apples on the top and sprinkle with cinnamon, and put it right back in the oven for 30 minutes until puffy and brown.
Let it cool for for five minutes, enjoy!


Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary and Feta Cheese

I can't remember exactly where I got the idea to make this recipe, but it has been a favorite of mine and my brothers for years. I have made it for dinner parties countless times and it always comes out great. Pork and rosemary are a great pair, and the saltiness of feta cheese makes this an awesome dish. I'll often cook with dried rosemary, but this is one of those times where you'll need to pay a visit to your friend with the rosemary bush in the front year and snip a few good looking branches, (when they're not looking) Just Kidding! Or you can always suck it up and pay $3 for a few sprigs of it at the grocery store.

Although this may also go well over rice, I have always served it with roasted red potatoes tossed with rosemary and olive oil, and then covered them both with the delicious gravy that this recipe yields. One variation of this recipe worth mentioning is to include pieces of thin sliced Prosciutto ham with the Feta Cheese in the stuffing, talk about bursting with flavor!

Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Rosemary and Feta Cheese
Serves 4

4 cloves of garlic- minced
2-3 branches of fresh Rosemary, chopped-up and stalks removed
4 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 lb. pork tenderloin
3 oz Feta cheese
tooth picks, or butchers twine

1 Tbsp cornstarch

Frying pan
roasting pan
meat thermometer


Mix together 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the the minced garlic, rosemary, and a liberal amount of salt and pepper on a small bowl
Rinse off and dry the pork, and cut off any extra fat
Butterfly cut the pork, creating a pocket (cut the pork 3/4 of the way though lengthwise so it can be stuffed) see picture
Take all of the garlic / rosemary mixture and rub it on both sides of the pork
place the Feta cheese in the middle of the loin,roll up the pork using either toothpicks or twine to bind it - see picture
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees
Heat a frying pan to medium high heat with the remaining olive oil
Brown the pork on all sides in the pan (cook for about 1 minute on each side), keep the pan and the drippings to use for making gravy
Place the tenderloin in a roasting pan (on a roasting rack if you have one) pour 1 cup of water in the bottom of the pan- (we will use this to make gravy later)
Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the temperature in the center of the pork reaches 160 degrees. Important: Make sure the meat is cooked to at least 160 degrees!
Once fully cooked let the roast cool for 5 minutes before serving and remove toothpicks (or twine)
To serve, slice the roast in 1/2 inch pieces and drizzle with the gravy

Above: the roast is sealed with toothpicks.
Below: feta cheese is "stuffed" in the pocket

For the Gravy:
•Re-heat the pan you used to brown the pork, with the drippings, ad the drippings from the roast, and 1 cup of water, heat to medium high using a fork to remove the pieces stuck to the bottom on the pan
• Whisk together 1 Tbsp of corn starch with 1/2 cup of COLD water in a small bowl, slowly stir this mixture into the pan
• Bring to a boil while stirring constantly
• Once the mixture boils reduce the heat ,simmer for a few minutes and serve


Chicken and Rice Soup

I woke up this Saturday morning feeling not quite right. I wasn't hung-over and I didn't feel any flu symptoms so I guess it is just a cold. I believe in the old adage, "feed a cold, starve a fever" so the first thing that came to mind was to feed this cold some chicken soup!

Over the past months I have been collecting all of the unused parts from the whole chickens that I buy in my freezer. So I brought them all out along with a whole chicken breast and made a big pot of chicken stock which I let simmer for 3 hours. I strained the stock two times and put in the fridge. Once cooled a layer of solid fat formed on the top, which was easily removed. I discarded all of the chicken pieces except for the breast. I removed the bones from it and "pulled" the meat from it, in other words, I tore off bite sized pieces to use in the soup.

I used to like to make chicken noodle soup with egg noodles, but of course egg noodles aren't just egg, they're made with wheat flour. I'd be interested to see if there is a gluten-free noodle that is similar, but I haven't seen any. I've used gluten free pasta as a substitute in chicken noodle soup before and was less than thrilled with the result, the pasta either falls apart completely or is too rubbery, either way it wasn't the texture I was looking for in a noodle. I've also made chicken soup with potatoes which I always enjoy. This time I've chosen to use basmati rice as the grain in my soup and the result was great.

Chicken and Rice Soup
Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion- diced
2 stalks celery- diced
2 carrots- peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic- minced
Sea Salt and crushed black pepper to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cup of cooking sherry (or other dry white wine)
8-10 crimini mushrooms- sliced
1 cup of broccoli- cut to bite sized
9 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of uncooked basmati rice
one whole chicken breast- cooked, skin and bones removed and pulled (or cut-up)
1/2 cup heavy cream


Heat a large stock pot with the olive oil to medium heat
Stir in the onion, celery, carrots and garlic saute for a few minutes until the onion becomes translucent
Add the Salt and pepper, thyme, parsley, bay leaves and the sherry
Next mix in the Mushrooms and broccoli, cook for another minute or two
Add the Chicken broth and turn op the heat to medium high, bring to a boil
Once boiling add the rice, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes loosely covered, stirring occasionally
After 20 minutes stir in the chicken and cream, bring it back to a boil and then reduce to simmer for another 5 minutes
Serve and enjoy!


Fun with Apple Pancakes

Last week we got the latest edition of "Relish" magazine, inserted in our local newspaper. I usually browse through it to see what type of recipes they have and this week I was surprised to see gluten-free pancakes right on the cover in an article named "Going without the Grain". They have recipes for gluten-free buttermilk pancakes and chocolate chip cookies listed.

Saturday is pancake day at our house. Our pancake breakfast together is one of the few
relaxing meals we eat as a family all week. I like making pancakes but I'm not much for making the same meal every week. So each week I look for ways to make them fun and different. Usually I ask my 3 year old daughter to guess what the "secret ingredient" is, she's a remarkably good guesser! Some of the "secret ingredients" I've used are: bananas, pumpkin, chocolate, strawberries, blueberries, nuts, and apples. I've also made several different types of flavored syrups and even heart shapes pancakes. This week I choose to make apple pancakes, but with a fun twist, I made pancakes in the shape of the first letter of everybody's name, and it was actually pretty easy. I have a great mixing bowl that has a spout for easy pouring that made it much easier to control pouring the batter. I used a spoon dipped lightly in batter to actually trace out each letter before I poured it. Once the batter was poured I was able to use a fork to shape and form the letters. I made the letters nice and big. The only difficult part was flipping the the pancakes without breaking them. I used two spatulas which worked pretty well. I had a few mishaps but was able to get one good letter for everyone, (five of us ate) and the mistakes tasted just as good! I used a recipe I came up with for apple pancakes and added a 1/2 tsp of xanthum gum to give them a bit more binding to hold the letter shapes better. Here is my apple pancake recipe...

Apple Pancakes
Serves 4

1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free flour mix
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp GF baking soda
2 tsp GF baking powder
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
salt to taste

3 large eggs- beaten
1/3 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 of an apple- peeled, skinned and minced
1 cup milk
my 3 year old daughter was thrilled about her "M" pancake!


Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
pre-heat a skillet or pan (with a non-stick surface if you have it) to medium heat
Mix in the eggs, melted butter (or vegetable oil) applesauce, and apple
Next stir in the milk, mixing by hand until all of the ingredients are well blended
Make sure the pan is fully heated, then coat lightly with cooking spray (or butter)
Pour out each pancake to the desired size, flip pancakes when bubbles start to appear
Once flipped cook for about two more minutes each
Serve hot. (I like to keep my pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven covered with aluminum foil so they stay warm, and we can all eat together)
Serve with butter, or syrup, or cinnamon sugar, or honey or however you prefer, enjoy!


Baked Polenta with Spinach and Feta Cheese

I love to cook with spinach and use it quite often, occasionally it is necessary to only use fresh spinach, but I find more often frozen spinach makes a good and practical substitute. It's one of those ingredients that's full of vitamins and versatile enough that I can use for a variety of purposes, I always keep some stocked in my freezer.

I bought a few packages of feta cheese the other day and have been going a bit crazy with it. Feta is one of my favorite cheeses. It reminds me of all of the great Greek restaurants that I used to eat at when I lived in Buffalo, NY. It was this Greek cuisine that I had in mind when I created this quick and delicious Mediterranean dish can be served as a vegetarian main course or as a savory side dish.

Baked Polenta with Spinach and Feta Cheese

Serves 2 (as a main course)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves of garlic- minced
1 cup of frozen spinach- thawed and drained (or @ 1 lb. of fresh spinach)
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
Salt and fresh grated black pepper to taste
8 oz of ready to use Polenta , (pre-cooked)
3 oz of feta cheese-crumbled
2 stalks of green onion- chopped
few sprinkles of grated parmesan cheese

6" x 9" baking dish
Aluminum foil

Heat a frying pan to medium high heat with the olive oil
Saute the garlic for about a minute, then mix in the spinach
Add the tarragon, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, mix together and cook for 2 minutes, then put aside
Pre-heat the oven to 350º
coat the bottom of a 6" x 9" baking dish with butter or with cooking spray
Place a 1/2 inch (2.5 cm) thick layer of the polenta on the bottom of the dish
Spread on a layer of the spinach mixture over top of the polenta
Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese over top of the spinach mixture
Sprinkle the chopped green onion over top of the feta, then finish off with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese and a bit more fresh grated black pepper
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350º
After 20 minutes remove the foil and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes (30 minutes total baking time)
Let cool 10 minutes before serving, enjoy!


Curry Chicken Salad with Feta Cheese

If it was up to my wife we would have chicken salad 4 nights a week, it's the one thing she seems not to get tired of eating. It order to keep it from getting old fast, I have tried several different chicken salad recipes. My favorite of these variations is curry chicken salad. I've enjoyed experimenting with chicken salads and have treated it less like a substitute for lunch meat and more like a hearty salad that you eat like a sandwich. I often like to serve slices of fresh apples on chicken salad, in this recipe I went ahead and mixed the apple right in with the other ingredients, providing for a sweet crunch.

One of the great by-products to making this recipe is a great chicken broth/stock (depending how long you boil it). Here is the link to my basic chicken stock recipe. After cooking this chicken breast I was left with four cups of flavorful chicken broth. I used most of it right away to make some basmati rice and I froze the rest in an ice cube tray to use later.

Curry Chicken Salad with Feta Cheese
Serves 2

1 half of boneless, skinless chicken breast- cooked
(if boiling the chicken, let it boil for a minimum of 25 minutes)
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, diced
1/ 4 cup onion- chopped
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/3 cup mayonnaise
dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 of a apple, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro- chopped
sea salt and black pepper to taste

@2 oz of feta cheese
4 - 6" corn tortilla shells (gluten-free)


Shred the cooked chicken breast into bite-sized pieces
Mix the carrot, celery, onion, curry powder, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper, apple, cilantro, salt and pepper together well in a mixing bowl
Toast the corn tortillas in a pan, oven, or toaster oven for about two minutes on each side until cooked
Spoon the chicken salad onto the corn tortilla shells, (or onto bread slices) sprinkle with feta cheese, roll up the tortilla like a wrap, and serve!