Category Archives: Vegetables

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.

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Spinach Dip

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here in the Big Apple. Last week a friend of mine from back home visited New York for her sister’s wedding, and I was really happy to spend some time with fellow Norwegians. We had some great dinners in Brooklyn and spent the days shopping and sightseeing. I was invited to join her family on a sightseeing bus that they had rented, and it was so much fun to see more of Manhattan even though it was freezing sitting on top of the bus.

What else is new? I’ve tried yoga for the first time! I did not expect to like it at all, I thought it was all about breathing and finding your inner peace or whatever (those of you who know me, know that I’m not really into all that), but I was so surprised by how good exercise is actually was! I really got my heart rate going and I could definitely feel it all over my body the next day. Of course, it is also about breathing and being peaceful and all that, but I don’t think you have to be into that to enjoy yoga. I went three times last week and will try to keep it up.

Here’s a picture of Times Square that I took from the sightseeing bus.

I have also been doing a lot of studying lately, even on Friday and Saturday nights… Brittany and I have been thinking about how we can make doing homework on a Friday night more fun, the answer is: with dips and wine of course! Brittany made a very tasty guacamole and I decided to make this spinach dip. I first tried this dip at a party in New Jersey a couple of weeks ago and it was so good I just had to ask for the recipe! Turns out the recipe can be found on the back of packs of Lipton vegetable soup mix. When I saw the recipe I realized I had to make some major adjustments to make it healthier. The original recipe calls for a cup of real mayonnaise and eight ounces of sour cream. As a future dietician I couldn’t really justify making a dip with so much fat, so I substituted 2% Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise and I used half fat sour cream. I don’t think the taste was compromised at all, it was still delicious. I really like spinach a lot, and it’s so healthy too. Spinach is a very good source of folate, which is scientifically proven to lower the incidence of neural tube defects, and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. In addition to folate, spinach is also a good source of other micronutrients such as vitamins K, A, C, and also iron and magnesium. So make my healthier version of this dip and feel good about getting all these essential nutrients.

Recipe (makes 3 cups)

1 sachet (51 g) Lipton vegetable soup mix

230 g (8 oz) low-fat sour cream

240 ml (1 cup) 2% fat Greek yogurt

280 g (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

230 g (8 oz) water chestnuts, drained and chopped

3 spring onions, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; chill 2 hours.
  2. Serve with your favourite dippers. I served my dip with spelt pretzels, but I think it will be really good with carrot and celery sticks and some pita bread.

Source: Adapted from Lipton

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

Fennel, Tomato and Garlic Gratin

On my first trip to the cinema here in New York I saw “Julie & Julia“. Since this film is about food and blogging I thought it would be right up my alley, and it was! I remember when I was in Paris this June I was also looking for a French cookbook in English, but I didn’t have any trouble finding one (unlike Julia Child). I picked up a copy of “a little taste of… france” which has some classic French recipes, including Boeuf bourguignon, one of the dishes prepared in the film. As I watched the film I realised that I have only tried one recipe from this book, so I decided it was time to get back into the kitchen. My roommate, Brittany, is a semi-vegetarian (she eats chicken and fish) so I decided to pick a vegetarian recipe. I had today off from school so I had some time on my hands to get fresh ingredients. I went down to the Chelsea market, recommended by my Time Out New York book. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed by the market. I have visited some amazing markets around Europe (I think my favourite so far is the market in Valencia, Spain) and the Chelsea market just didn’t compare to the standards I have seen before. But I did find everything I was looking for, although it was a little too expensive for my student wallet. Next time I will try the Union Square market which I have heard is really good on Wednesdays.

Back to the recipe… I haven’t cooked much with fennel before, but when I have it has always been in some kind of fish and tomato soup. I love the smell of fennel and I quite like to eat it raw as well. I really love garlic a lot so I always add more than the recipe calls for, in this one too. I have left the recipe as is, so you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to add extra garlic. I didn’t encounter any problems making this recipe, but I have a few recommendations on how to make it easier for you. Firstly, the recipe says to boil the tomatoes for 20 seconds before skinning them. I would recommend 30-40 seconds as I struggled trying to get the skin off my first few tomatoes. Secondly, I would make sure to use day-old bread. I used really fresh bread and it was very difficult to make the crumbs.

I have to say that I was very pleased with how this turned out. The taste was amazing! I didn’t expect the lemon flavour to come through as well as it did and the crispiness of the crumb topping worked really well with the soft tomatoes. I put half the batch in the freezer and I am already looking forward to defrosting and reheating it one day in the not so distant future. This is also a fairly healthy meal, with at least two portions of your daily serving of vegetables. Olive oil contains healthy fats and the parmesan adds calcium to the dish, but if you are worried about calories I would just cut down a little on both of those ingredients. I served this with a side of chicken, but I think a white fish like sea-bass would be really good with this too. Next time I will try adding some herbs, basil or thyme are always good with tomato. I highly recommend this recipe I and hope you will try to make it!

Recipe (serves 4)

I kg fennel bulbs

500 g tomatoes

80 ml olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Gratin topping:

60 g white bread, broken into crumbs

65 g grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1 garlic clove, crushed

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut the fennel in half lengthways and slice thinly.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes until softened but not browned.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently for 7 minutes until softened and lightly golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, score a cross in the top of each tomato, plunge into boiling water for 20 (30-40) seconds, then peel the skin away from the cross. Chop roughly and add to the fennel. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the tomato is softened. Season to taste.
  6. To make the gratin topping, mix together all the ingredients (if I had a working food processor I would probably just throw all the ingredients in together and chop), sprinkle over the vegetables and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.

Source: a little taste of… france