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Masoor Dal with Cauliflower and Kale

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Before we get to some major Indian yumminess, I wanted to mention two things.  First, you may notice things look a bit different around here.  I changed my theme and I like it but I’m not sure it’s “the one.”   I think the header is very plain…but I’m cheap and I don’t want to pay to get fancy so this is probably as good as it gets. :) Let me know what you think!

Second, I think I caused some confusion with my post on the cake decorating competition at work.  I’m not sure how many of you saw that, but I wanted to clarify that the date on it is correct.  I wrote it two years ago on my MySpace blog, and newly copied it to Recipe Rhapsody so that I could link to it in reference to how to make a tiered cake in an upcoming post.  I posted it with the original date I wrote it, so I didn’t think any one would see it, but I started getting some comments on it so apparently it came across some of your radars!  Just wanted to clarify that it’s now old news, but I appreciate your kind words and congratulations.

Red Lentils

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Although I still have a large backlog of recipes to post, the weather is heating up again and it looks like the casseroles, soups, and pumpkin recipes will probably have to wait until next year, so I thought I’d gush (or perhaps rhapsodize would be a more appropriate word for this blog!) about the lunch I made today instead.  I’m on a mission to spring-clean my wreck of a house into sparkling submission, and I started eying the red lentils I’d purchased at a Lebanese market over a month ago while I was organizing the kitchen.

I decided I was (finally) going to make something with them, but by the time I took a break to cook,  I was starving and didn’t want to bother with looking up any recipes.  I needed a quick meal and I threw this one together in just over half an hour, so it would be great for a busy day.  While I’m usually not a good enough cook to come up with anything edible without using a recipe, I think I knocked this one out of the park, if I do say so myself!  Becoming familiar with the cuisine by cooking several Indian dishes over the last few months helped a lot.

I made a masoor dal (a thick stew made of red lentils) that is almost vegan, and could certainly be turned so by using vegetable stock in place of the water and chicken bullion.  It is spicy in the full sense of the word–with plenty of Indian aromatics and and a moderate heat index, though you can certainly reduce or increase the spiciness to your tastes.

I’m usually not a fan of lentils, but I liked this more than any lentil dish I’ve made before.  I’m not sure if red lentils have a better flavor (which I do suspect, because I detected none of the usual musky lentil flavor in this dish), or if the spices just overwhelmed it.  The tender cauliflower pieces were a perfect accompaniment, but I don’t think the kale is absolutely necessary.  I couldn’t really detect any of its flavor, and it got kind of dull & ugly during the cooking process, but I don’t think it hurts to have all that extra nutrition!  Kale has powerful  antioxidant properties and is considered an anti-inflammatory so if you have it on hand, throw it in!  If not, don’t sweat it.  The only thing I didn’t have that I really felt it needed was a little cilantro to sprinkle over the top.  I had to make do with some dried parsley.  Bummer!

I served mine with whole wheat couscous since I was in a hurry to eat (it only takes 5 minutes to make), but you can serve it with rice or bulgar or even pasta.  Whatever floats your boat!

Masoor Dal with Cauliflower and Kale

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2 cups water
2 chicken bullion cubes
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon sriracha hot chile sauce, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 head cauliflower, separated into florets
2 cups loosely packed kale
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a large 3-quart saucepan, combine water, bullion, lentils, onions, and garlic; cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for ten minutes.  Stir in the tomato sauce, garam masala, curry powder, sriracha, and cumin.  Add the cauliflower and kale, stir & cover.  Cook for 20 more minutes, stirring often to make sure the dal isn’t sticking, or until the lentils are tender.  Stir in the olive oil during the last five minutes of cooking and serve with a sprinkle of cilantro over rice or couscous.

Serves 4

Per serving: 231 calories; 8 g fat; 40 g carbohydrates; 15 g fiber; 13 g protein


30 Minute Meal: Easy Parmesan Garlic Chicken with Roasted Garlic Couscous & Zucchini

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I do realize it’s sort of ridiculous to be turning on the oven when it’s practically hot enough to bake something on the sidewalk, but I figure I can’t be the only person crazy enough to do it, so I wanted to share this super-easy recipe with the other zany people out there that throw common sense to the wind. 

This is a true 30-minute meal.  It looks & sounds like you put some time and effort into it, but thanks to a few convenience products & very few ingredients, everything comes together in a snap and you are rewarded with some amazing deliciousness.  The chicken is so juicy and flavorful–it will knock your socks off.  And while the method of preparation may be a bit foolhardy, it is a light meal that is absolutely perfect for summer. 

I received two boxes of Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous from the Near East company and ended up using both of them with this exact meal, twice, because it was so easy and delicious! I am a big fan of their whole wheat couscous (I use it in Orange Couscous with Chicken and Colorful Couscous Salad with Chickpeas) and while my husband and I both liked this preseasoned version, I think you’d get better flavor by adding your own seasonings. However, this is perfect for a night when you need dinner on the table in a jiffy.

Easy Parmesan Garlic Chicken
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Printable recipe with picture

½ cup grated (not powdered) Parmesan cheese
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix
½ teaspoon garlic powder
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 lb.)

Preheat oven to 400. Mix cheese, salad dressing mix and garlic powder. Moisten chicken with water; coat with cheese mixture. Place in shallow baking dish that has been lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (170 degrees). If your chicken is not as golden as you like, you can broil it for a few minutes after it’s done cooking.

Serves 6

Roasted Garlic & Red Pepper Couscous
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Printable recipe with picture

1 box (5.8 oz) Near East Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous
1 1/4 cups water
1/4-1/3 cup chopped red pepper

Bring water & contents of spice pack inside the couscous box to a boil. Stir in the couscous & red pepper and remove from heat. Cover and let stand five minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve hot.  You could also add the red pepper after the couscous is done so that it would be more bright and crunchy, which I think would be better but didn’t think to do that until after we’d eaten it, of course.

Garlic Oven Roasted Zucchini
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Printable recipe with picture

1-2 medium or large zucchini
olive oil
garlic salt

Wash and dry your zucchini, then slice into 1/4″ rounds. Slice rounds in half and put into a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and stir until all pieces are coated. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the zucchini out on it. Sprinkle with garlic salt and put in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. I stuck mine in on the top rack when there was 15 minutes cooking time left on the chicken so they’d be done at the same time.

*I received free Near East product in conjunction with this blog post.  Near East did not influence my opinions expressed here as a result.

Orange Couscous with Chicken

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Although couscous looks like a tiny grain, it’s actually a form of pasta.

Couscous is a primary staple throughout the Maghreb, in much of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.  It is also popular in the West African Sahel, in France, Spain, Madeira, in western Sicily’s Province of Trapani, as well as in Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Middle East. It is particularly popular among Jews of North African descent such as the Berber Jews, and is eaten in many other parts of the world as well.

My first couscous experience was in the traditional Moroccan style.  Well, nearly traditional.  My friend, Margo, is an American married to a man from Morocco and his sister taught her to make the couscous dish she prepared that night.  So as far as I know, the recipe was traditional–but it wasn’t served in quite the traditional way.

In Morocco, the entire meal is put onto a giant platter and plunked down in the middle of the table (table optional, actually!).  Then everyone digs in with their fingers.  It is quite a sight to behold.  These people literally scoop their bare fingers into the food, lick them clean and then put their fingers back in for more.  Excuse my squeamish American standards of etiquette & cleanliness, but I can barely tolerate watching this spectacle and I’m not about to participate.  Lucky for me, she provided our group with spoons.  Have you ever tried eating a chicken leg with a spoon?

But I digress.  The experience was unique and I thoroughly enjoyed it so I decided to venture out and buy couscous to incorporate into my own meals.

This one is mostly savory with a little sweet from the oranges.  You can save the liquid from the oranges to pour over the top of your dish in case you find you prefer more sweetness (like I do).  It may be just my particular taste, but I really enjoy the brightness that the parsley imparts.

Orange Couscous with Chicken
6 Servings

3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
3 tsp. chicken bouillon granules (or 3 cubes)
6 oz. uncooked whole-wheat couscous
12 oz. shredded cooked chicken breast
1 3/4 cups drained canned mandarin orange sections (about 2 small cans)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven, combine orange juice, water & bouillon; bring to a boil and make sure the bouillon completely dissolves.  Remove from heat; stir in the couscous.  Cover, let stand 10 minutes.

Add chicken, 1 1/2 cups of the orange sections and the parsley to Dutch oven; stir to combine.  Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until heated through.

To serve, arrange couscous mixture in large serving bowl; garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup orange sections & a bit of parsley.  Plonk it on the table and tell everyone to dig in.  Or, if you prefer, divide it among six plates that are lined with an optional lettuce leaf and provide forks.  I prefer the latter.

Per Serving
243 Calories
2.3 g Fat
.6 g Saturated Fat
48 mg. Cholesterol
66 mg Sodium
32.5 g Carbohydrates
2.2 g Dietary Fiber
9.1 g Sugars
22 g Protein
22% Vitamin A
78% Vitamin C
3% Calcium
8% Iron

If you don’t have access to local chicken that has been raised humanely, you could always make this vegetarian by using  Quorn’s Chik’n Tenders or Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik’n Strips (both found in the freezer section).  To go completely vegetarian, sub veggie bouillon granules as well.  KitchenBitch tells me there’s an awesome low-sodium vegetable bouillon called Organic Gourmet.

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