Lentil & Mushroom Casserole

Lentil & Mushroom Casserole

 

Finally… Can you smell it? Spring! I am so excited for warmer weather and brighter days. The fact the days are longer now, after the clock’s recent change has helped my mood a lot. The other weekend I got inspired and cleared out a space for some vegetable growing, and then the following day (in the pouring rain) I drove to town to buy some timber to make a raised bed.

This will be my fourth year of growing vegetables. I decided to build a simple 2 x 1 m frame, which should be easy to dismantle the day I leave here, yet should give me ample space to grow some root vegetables for this coming season. The property also has an old disused green house so I’m hoping I will be able to have some tomatoes and a few herbs like coriander and basil in there. Next up, getting some manure + ordering some seeds. All the exciting stuff. It truly is such a rewarding thing to grow your own veggies. It is definitely an adventure which has helped me fostering some patience as well as trust.

You can’t will the seeds out of the ground. It takes nurturing, patience and a tad skill. Such a good metaphor for life in general I think…

 

On a totally different note though, the recipe I am sharing this week is one of those comforting, budget friendly and very versatile ones. And it is one I’ve eaten on repeat over the past few months. These long cold AND wet months had me craving foods that were more stodgy, warm and nourishing. As well as that I have also had a desire to eat other high energy foods like oats (especially in combination with sugar and butter…). I am beginning to feel ready to have some lighter meals soon, with more greens and raw foods. Maybe you are too?

However I thought now would still be a good time to share this recipe, whilst we are still note truly there yet, and if you are like me, feeling the pinch of heating bills… then something that is budget friendly and that can be made any day of the week from mostly store cupboard ingredients is hopefully welcomed!

I’m not sure “casserole” is actually a good name for this dish as it is more like a vegetarian bolognese and even a little meaty in texture. It could even be a good one to try out for Meat Free Monday or to serve those avid meat eaters, whom you’d like to introduce to some more plant based dishes.

Then on the other hand, how and with what you serve it is, entirely up to you. I have so far had it with rice, pasta, a fried egg (like in the picture) and with roasted sweet potatoes. I would imagine it can pair with “normal” roasted potatoes, even mash, or as a side dish to baked fish. One basic dish. Many options!

straightforward nutrition

 

Lentil & Mushroom Casserole

Serves 4

1 tin chopped tomatoes

250g fresh mushrooms (I like chestnut mushrooms)

1 large yellow onion, peeled & chopped finely

5 cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped finely 

1 red or yellow pepper, washed & chopped finely

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)

1 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp smoked paprika

Sea salt & Black pepper to season

Approx. 1 cup cooked lentils such as beluga or puy lentils

 

Start with cooking the lentils. Exact measurements aren’t really important here, so measure out 3/4 cup. Then rinse well before placing in a saucepan and adding enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch. I usually add a bay leaf or two to this also. 

Bring the lentils to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. If you let them boil to hard they will just cook apart. Simmer for about 35-40 min until they squeeze soft between your fingers. Drain, rinse and set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan. Add chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the chopped pepper  and mushrooms and saute for another few minute or two until soft-ish. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for another minute.

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the cooked lentils and the spices. Give it all a really good stir and then bring to a lively simmer for 20 min until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.

Let cool slightly and then serve with your choice of side (as suggested above) + some greens. Oh and some grated Parmesan is totally yum to add grated on top. If that’s your thing.

 

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Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Puy lentil Salad

Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Puy lentil Salad

 

Do you what is really challenging? Taking photos of red and dark coloured foods! I don’t know if it is just my camera that is struggling with the light / contrast or if there’s something else contributing, which I don’t know about… It just feels a little unfair as the pictures doesn’t truly do the dish justice.

This salad is kind of a classic pairing, beetroot and feta. I bet if you Goolgle it you’ll find hundreds of ideas for a salad like this. A very similar recipe to this one, was one of the first recipes that I added to my first website. But when I moved on to this website, I left it behind.

So here’s a new version!

Speaking of Googling recipes… Sometimes when I see a new ingredient that I would like to try make something with, this is exactly what I do. You usually get endless results which = endless ideas to try. Is this how you approach it too? Or are you more inclined to pull out a recipe book and decide that you are going to try a new recipe and then shop accordingly?

When I first decided to extend my recipe repertoire I went looking for cookbooks (back then I just had a few…), then I would pick a recipe that looked good, shop the ingredients and then get stuck in. At one stage I decided to learn one new one / week.

To be honest that is probably an enough amount to focus on, because it takes a bit of mental energy to learn a new recipe. It is so easy to try to do everything all at once, but that’s often what makes it so challenging to then make changes that stick.

Our lives are so full already, which is why it is so much easier to stick to what we already know.  I think this is why we can get stuck in food ruts too. It’s safe, easy and convenient. Like I said, our lives are already full and learning new things requires mental energy. And when my life is way off, I don’t usually cook at all… But that’s an entirely different story… They don’t call it convenience food for nothing, do they?

straightforward nutrition

Before I share this recipe with you, I want to invite you to think of some other beetroot combinations to test out.

One of my favourite books for getting creative when it comes to flavour pairings is The Flavour Thesaurus.  It is a small book, well worth adding to your cookbook collection / kitchen. This book as helped me get a lot braver and creative when it comes to testing out new flavours and food combinations. As if this book was not enough, I recently invested in this book called Kitchen CreativitySo far I have only flickered through it, but I think it will be prove a worthwhile purchase 🙂

So if you want to change this salad up, consider pairing beetroot with either fresh orange + some fried halloumi, or some crisp thinly sliced apples + some goat’s cheese / blue cheese with walnuts.

If you cook the beetroot (leave skin on so they bleed less) you will end up with a different texture. A lot softer. Or you can use it grated, raw like I did in this salad.

Now let’s get to today’s recipe!

 

Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Puy Lentil Salad

Serves 2

2 large beetroots (or 4 small ones), peeled & cut into small quarters

2 tsp cumin seeds, ground

100g dried puy lentils (beluga lentils are fine too), rinsed 

100g good quality feta cheese

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

A handful of green salad leaves, washed & dried 

Olive oil, for roasting

 

Dressing:

4 tbsp good quality olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp clear honey

sea salt & black pepper to season

 

Heat oven to 180°C. Place your quartered beetroot on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and then scatter the cumin seeds over. Season with sea salt and black pepper and then toss it all with your hands to that the beetroot are well coated in seasoning and oil.

Roast for about 35-40 min until soft. 

To cook the lentils, rinse them well to remove any dust as well as pick through to make sure there’s no stones in there. Then place them in a large saucepan filled with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 30-35 min until they are soft but still hold their shape. When they mush easily with a squeeze between your fingers, they are done. Drain, rinse and drain well.

You can serve this salad warm or cold. Since it is still cold here, at this time of the year I would personally prefer it warm. The warm lentils will make a nice contrast to the cold salty feta and the sweet and crunchy pomegranate seeds.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing together and season to taste. Add the dressing to the warm lentils. 

On a plate add some salad leaves, the warm lentil and some roasted beetroot. Then scatter some crumbled feta and some pomegranate seeds. Tuck in!

winter salad

 

Beetroot Latte

Beetroot Latte

 

Normally I post new blogs on Sunday afternoon, but with this recent spell of snow(!) and winter weather I decided that I might as well post this as I write it.

And after a little hiatus I posted this blog earlier this week, so there you go. I know I’m not the greatest at consistency. I think variety is more my style.

Anyhow, with this recent weather though I was lucky and did not experience the full brunt of Storm Emma, (also known as the Beast from the East), I did end up stuck at home for two days which meant lots of hot drinks, blazing fires and plenty of time to work on the computer…

Snow

Irish Winter, Storm Emma

Whilst contemplating if I should dress up and take the 5 min walk to the shop or if I should in fact stay put, finish writing this blog post and then chill with a cup of this pink beauty and the latest book I am reading in front of the fire, the rain is slowly melting the snow outside.

It was definitely beautiful whilst lasting and reminded me of winters growing up back in Sweden. Yet I am so ready for Spring now!

Ready for longer brighter days, ready to prepare some raised beds and order some vegetable seeds and ready for a new season to arrive.

While you are waiting though, enjoy this warming drink and there are a good few new recipes lined up, coming your way over the coming weeks. More warming dishes to enjoy, whilst we are waiting and contemplating.

Beetroot Latte

I got the idea for this Beetroot Latte from Instagram. Because giving proper attribute to the original creator is important and the right thing to do, I went back searching for whom I might have gotten it from, but when I typed in #beetrootlatte I got like 9000 hits! So maybe this isn’t a truly original idea after all…

Since I am such a cardamom fan, I loved cardamom added here. If that’s not your cup of tea (pardon the pun) then you could try another variation that I made some time ago which was a hot chocolate type drink, with some beetroot powder + a pinch of chili.

Dried beetroot powder is available in health food shops. It is kind of sweet and a great way to colour foods naturally.

 

Beetroot Latte

Serves 1

1 cup of plant milk of choice (measure the milk out with the cup you intend to drink from)

½ tsp dried beetroot powder

½ tbsp. sweetener of choice – I like honey or maple

¼ tsp ground cardamom

 

Add milk and the rest of the ingredients to a small heavy based saucepan. Gently heat your drink whilst whisking all the ingredient together. Just before reaching boiling point remove from heat and serve.

If you want to pretty it up you can add some edible dried rose petals!

 

P.S I have *finally* signed up to Lightroom and started to play around with presets (kind of like filters). Please bear with me a as I am learning this new creative skill!

Irish winter

Curried Cauliflower Stir-Fry

Curried Cauliflower Stir-Fry

 

For the month of January I partook in a “Buy Nothing but Consumables Challenge”.  Considering that my finances put a natural constrained on any purchasing desires, it wasn’t a massive task to get through, but even so I still found it an interesting experience and it did give me some insights and a new awareness.

This challenge was headed up by the lovely Kathy Peterman from simpleup.me whom I crossed paths with a few years ago in another online programme. Ever since then I have been a huge fan of Kathy’s work and she has inspired me to get decluttering, as well as now becoming more intentional with my spending. Though I can’t say I have been overly mad with my shopping and spending habits over the past few years, it is still surprising how you can find things to buy, that you don’t really need…

Having lived in a small space for the past 8 years, did mean I couldn’t store an endless amount of stuff, yet I still had boxes of stuff stored, and having not have to move for y I didn’t have that much need to go through any of it either. However, luckily I had already started on my declutter journey before I had to pack up all my belongings and move last year. Both when packing and when unpacking, I tried to be ruthless and got rid of a lot of stuff that I had stored for years, and even now with more space didn’t feel like I wanted to use them, so off they went. Including some of my books! I love books, so letting some of them go was a bit hard, but since I seem to continue to add more, it is definitely good to let them circulate. They may make someone else happy now that I’ve had my time with them.

My decluttering is continuing this month with “the minimalist game” which essentially mean getting rid of 1 item on the first, then 2 on the 2nd and so on. I think at that pace I’ll have no belongings left… so I am sticking to one item / day, which I think I’ll be able to do. There’s definitely still more stuff that haven’t been used in the last six months or so, that I am sure I don’t need , as well as stuff that’s well worn out.

curried cauliflower stir-fry

So then what has this recipe to do with my current (and ongoing decluttering project?), well this recipe is one of my “fridge raid” type recipes. As well as the “Buy Nothing Challenge” , I also challenged myself to spend some time at the beginning of January to use up what I actually had in the cupboards, rather than buying more and as a result ending up with food waste.

That said, kitchen creativity does require that you keep a couple of basics to hand and then add fresh produce as you go along. As I tend to like warm foods when the weather is cold, I have been eating dishes like this one many times over the past month. Stir-fries, like this one are almost like warm salads. Almost. Or at least something in between a salad and a curry. Let’s not get to hung up on the details shall we?

Cauliflower is a totally underrated vegetable in my opinion. It is cheap, incredibly nutritious and very versatile. Most people (in Ireland at least) just boil it into mush and then serve it as a sad side dish. Which is totally unfair and doesn’t let cauliflower blossom in its own right.

In my humble opinion cauliflower is best enjoyed like this, finely chopped and a stir-fried or roasted, either way with some spices and curry spices seems to have a particular affinity with this veggie.

Please also note that though I think it is cool that cauliflower has gotten this new appreciation through it being used as “cauli-rice”, I still feel like if you really want to eat rice with your curry, stir-fry, what ever, do it! Taste and satisfaction is as important to any meal as the nutritional content. I much rather that you enjoy this veggie for its own beautiful glory, instead of seeing it as a substitute for something else. Being a consolation prize does not make anyone feel happier about themselves…

 

Curried Cauliflower Stirfry

Serves 2

1 small head of cauliflower, leaves removed, washed & roughly chopped

2 tbsp melted coconut oil or olive oil

2 tbsp curry spice powder of choice

10 dried apricots, chopped into chunks

A handful of pecan nuts, roughly chopped

3 tbsp of pomegranate seeds

A handful of fresh coriander, stems removed and leaves torn

 

Start with getting your ingredients chopped and ready. Then heat a frying pan, add the oil and when warm (not smoking!) add the curry and fry off for a min or two, until lightly fragrant.

Add the cauliflower to the pan and stir until well coated. Keep on medium heat and keep tossing and turning to avoid any burning. You want the cauliflower to be heated through but still have some crunch left to it. This will take 3-4 minutes.

Add the dried apricots and the pecan nuts and keep warm for another minute or so.

Add the pomegranate seeds and the coriander leaves just before serving.

Personally I prefer this warm, as a stir-fry type dish, but if you have leftovers they should still be good to go the following day.

 

*** This recipe is pretty basic and lend itself to endless variations. Like swapping the apricots for raisins (or leave out if you don’t like sweet things in savoury dishes), try a few mint leaves or fresh parsley. Maybe some orange segments?

It can be serves as a light meal as it is, or add some protein of choice (chicken, fish if you eat meat or perhaps some chickpeas or tofu if you don’t). Adding some cooked quinoa will also help make it into a more substantial meal.

You can of course swap the pecan nuts for any other nut or seed too. Feel free to use your own creativity!

A final note on cauliflower… Don’t fall for the marketing trick of buying it pre packed and grated. Seriously! I used to do in my food processor, but now I am to lazy to even pull that one out (more washing up!) with a half decent knife you will chop it in one minute tops! Here is a rant I had about pre packed cauli-rice.

straightforward nutrition

 

Hot Chocolate for Cold Days

Hot Chocolate for Cold Days

 

This year I have decide to try something different. Rather than focusing on moulding my life into the way I “think it should be”, I have decide to “take action without attachment to outcome”.  Only a few weeks into the year and my life is already giving me plenty of opportunities to practice this intention. In reality letting go of attachment to outcome means you also have to be ok when you get a no, and as much as I am telling myself that I am ok with a no to some of my asks when I look a little closer I probably aren’t… So I just keep reminding myself of something Brené Brown said, “The courage is in the action.”

Instead I get to practice sitting with my feelings, of disappointment or even anger.  I also get the opportunity to practice courage and trust. (Or should it be “the courage to trust”?).  Amidst this experiment of trying to live with the openness to the FLOW of life, I found this article by Sharon Salzberg, on one of my favourite websites On Being.  It spoke to some of the ambivalence I do feel in making a choice like this. Because if you are not actively pursuing your dream life are you letting yourself go and giving up? Or am I just trying to give up on the suffering holding on to an expectation of a specific outcome is giving me?

straightforward nutrtion

This train of thought lead me to another observation this week. One of my colleagues in one of the FB forums that I am in shared a great resource for other things to do when we notice a desire to eat even though we are not physically hungry. I definitely things it is great to have lists of ideas of other thing to do rather than using food as a coping mechanism, even though in the journey to make peace with food there still have to be an unconditional permission to eat.  Otherwise we may still end up subconsciously restrict, which can then backfire into over-eating later.

The thing is though if we move directly from noticing that we are reaching for food, without pausing to check in for what it is we are currently emotionally experiencing and move right on to the next non-eating distraction, we miss the chance to see what’s underneath the habitual impulse to reach for food. In the pause we can notice what is there, and follow up with a questions of “What do I need right now?

Depending on the emotion you may discover a different need. Sadness may require the comforting from another human being, or a pet (they are my personal favourites). Happiness may require simply some revelling in, because it can be oh-so-fleeting.

straightforward nutrition

Boredom is a particular interesting one.

To be honest, I’m not sure if dealing with boredom through distraction, eating or otherwise is the best strategy. If we can simply be with it, boredom can open doors to a whole world of inner discoveries. Or we may discover that it is simply a passing state and part of our human experience.

One day during this week I noticed my need for comfort. Not as a way to deal with a particular emotion, more like a way of taking care of myself. A self care ritual of sorts.  Comfort eating get such a bad rap, because it is seen like a way numbing out, escapism and sometimes as punishment even. Which may be true. However to me it is only a problem if we comfort eat in a way that doesn’t leave us feeling comfortable and nourished by neither the food nor the act of eating.

This recipe is one that brings me comfort on wet, cold and grey January days. Especially when consumed in front of the fire, with a good book in hand, dog in lap (which is optional + a little risky considering the hot liquid…).

It is also one that I intend to include, or some version thereof, in my first recipe book. Which I have still no idea of how or when it will come out. Before the end of the year at least…!

So here’s to comfort foods and comfort eating that leaves you feeling comforted, satisfied and well nourished.

 

Spicy Hot Chocolate for Colder Days

Makes about 10 portions, depending on how much mix you use for your cup

5 tbsp raw cacao powder

2-3 tbsp coconut sugar or demerara sugar (or you can leave this out and sweeten with maple syrup / honey to taste when you have the drink made up)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

¼ tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp ground dried ginger

¼ tsp ground cloves – optional

¼ tsp grated nutmeg

 

Place all ingredients in a clean, dry glass jar and mix until they are all well combined.

To make your hot spicy chocolate drink;

Measure out your milk of choice (cow’s milk or plant milk). For practicality I tend to pour the milk first into the cup I intend to drink from, to get the right volume.

Then add the milk to a small saucepan. Allow roughly a tbsp. of chocolate powder per cup/ person. Add the chocolate powder to the milk. Whisk rapidly as you are gently heating up the milk.

Keep whisking to prevent the milk from burning at the bottom of the pan. Avoid boiling, as if you are using plant based milk it may separate.

Your hot chocolate drink is ready just before it reaches boiling point. If you didn’t add any sugar to your cacao mix, now is a good time to add it to the hot drink. Honey or maple syrup are really delicious.

Pour it back into your cup of choice for serving and enjoy!

I love marshmallows, so this time I piled them high. (Not homemade)

comforting hot chocolate recipe

P.S I’ve invited Spring into my home. whilst waiting for it to take hold outside…

Wholehearted Living