Category Archives: Lunch

Lentils Two Ways

Here’s one for my vegetarian friends (or only one friend that I know of)! This will be a short post as I am very busy with school work at the moment. This week I started working with Cupcake Kids! teaching kids from five years and up about nutrition and cooking. We make whole wheat pizzas and talk about the food pyramid and where our ingredients come from. I am really enjoying it and I think it is a great experience for me. Whenever I have some spare time I try to go for a walk and take in the beautiful fall colours. New York is still nice and warm; hopefully it will stay that way until Christmas. This weekend I went to Billy’s Bakery and Magnolia Bakery for the first time, with my friends Anisha and Martin from London. Both bakeries are very popular and have a very similar selection of cupcakes and cakes. Since Magnolia was featured in an episode of Sex and the City it is obviously the most well-known of the two, but is it the best? I decided to take on that challenge and find out. It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it, right? Instead of trying the cupcakes I had banana cream pie, something I’ve never had before. Which pie was the best? They were both very good and very rich, but I have to say that Billy’s was the overall winner, even though Magnolia’s pie had the best crust. I hope this information has helped you so that you can make the best choice whenever you are in NY, craving some pie. Hopefully I’ll get to try more from their selection, but I really don’t think I should do this little test too often!

On to the recipes. Lentils are a great substitute for meat as they are high in protein and fibre and low in fat. They are usually cheap and can be found in many different colours. If you buy canned lentils they are ready to be used, but dried lentils need to be soaked in water overnight. I used canned lentils for the soup and dry lentils for the dahl. The dahl recipe is from my dad, I’m not sure where he got it from. This will be a first for this blog (and probably last): the soup recipe comes from my sister! As some of you may know she rarely cooks, but this was her go-to recipe during the last two years in London if I was ever fed up with doing the cooking all the time. According to my sister this recipe serves one, but I had enough for lunch two days in a row so I would say it serves two for lunch.

Nora’s Lentil Soup

(serves 1-2)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small chilli, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 stock cube, broken up into little pieces

Fry these ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat.

1-2 stalks celery

1 can lentils (with the liquid)

½ can water

Directions:

Add the celery, lentils and water to the saucepan. Bring to the boil and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Mix in a blender until the soup has a creamy consistency with smaller bits of lentils (just a few seconds). Be careful not to put too much soup in the blender at a time, about a cup worked fine for me. “And tadaaa, the world’s most complicated dish!” as my sister wrote when she sent me the recipe. I had my soup with whole wheat toast, a dollop of non-fat yogurt, some dried roasted onions, and some coriander.

Dad’s Dahl

(serves 4 as a side dish)

300 g lentils (soaked)

300 g finely chopped vegetables, preferably carrots and onions

1 large garlic, minced or finely chopped

1 tbsp butter/oil

6 tsps curry powder

A pinch of chilli powder if you like it hot.

Directions:

  1. Heat the butter or oil (I like to use a mix of the two) in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the curry and fry until it foams and then add the garlic. Be careful that the garlic does not burn.
  3. Add a dash of water and let it boil for a minute or so.
  4. Throw in the rest of the ingredients and let simmer on a low heat for at least 20 minutes. I like to let it simmer for about one hour but then I usually have to add some more water along the way.
  5. Add salt to taste. If it is too hot, add some cream or yogurt.

I served my dahl alongside fish that I cooked in curry paste and yogurt, some tsatziki, and nan-bread.

Spinach and Cheese Muffins

I have never made savoury muffins before, whenever I think of muffins I picture something sweet with chocolate or blueberries. Now that I am a poor student I thought I would try to make some healthy lunches to have on hand, instead of having to buy lunch during the day. I am keeping these in the freezer and then I just take one out the night before so it’s good and ready for lunch next day. It’s saving me money and making them is fun, so it’s a win-win for me. Also, when you make food yourself, you have complete control over what goes into your food. So much food you buy in the shops today is packed full of salt, preservatives and artificial colourings and flavourings. Too much salt in our diets is linked with high blood pressure, and most of the salt we consume comes from processed foods. Making your own food from scratch is an easy way to lower your salt intake, so I encourage everyone to cook more! I’m not saying these muffins are necessarily low in salt, there’s quite a bit of cheese in them, I’m just saying it for future reference. I based my muffins on a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, and made some simple changes to make them a little bit healthier. I think one of the easiest ways to make baked goods healthier is to use whole wheat flour instead of white. In addition to doing that, I added a little less cheese and butter than the recipe called for. Spinach is a green leafy vegetable, which means it’s high in folate and several other minerals and vitamins. I used full fat cheddar cheese, which has a really strong flavour. That way, it was easy to lower the cheese content, without sacrificing the taste. Also, studies have shown that if you use so-called low fat or light products, you just end up eating more of them anyway.

These muffins were really good and they make a welcome change from a slice of bread with cheese. The only thing I will do differently next time is to add a bit more red onion. Stay tuned for more recipes on simple and healthy foods to have on hand.

Recipe (makes 12 muffins)

10 g butter

½ red onion, finely chopped

160 g white flour

200 g whole wheat flour

2 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp cayenne pepper

200 g cheddar cheese, grated

250 ml 1% milk

1 egg

130 g baby spinach leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F)
  2. Melt the butter in a pan and fry the onion over medium heat until cooked. Set aside.
  3. Put the flour, baking powder, cayenne and cheese in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Mix the egg and milk together, then pour into the flour and beat with a handheld electric whisk until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  5. Stir in the onion and spinach with a wooden spoon until evenly dispersed. (My batter more resembled a dough, so I had to use my hands to be able to mix well)
  6. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Leave the muffins to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Source: adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook