I made Lentil Loaf! Shocked? No, I thought not.

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Sometimes I can’t even believe some of the things that come out of my mouth.

Like, “Oh yeah, I don’t use refined sugar when I bake, but I use it for fermenting my kefir water starter, the kefir grains seem like they prefer refined sugars”.

Um, okay… I have fermenting kefir grains on my counter for my probiotic kefir water. No big deal, doesn’t everyone??

Also. My breakfast is most often green. But… maybe you already knew that?

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Sometimes I amaze even myself with my crunchiness. Or alternativeness. Or organicness. Or awesomeness. Pick word, any word!

Tonight, I’m real granola. I made… lentil loaf.

Yep. Shocker, I know.

What else could you possibly be expecting?! My work nickname is Lentil, after all ;)

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And I know it’s like THE number one vegan stereotype food, but sorry I’m not sorry it’s a) delicious, b) not made with any of that freaky fake meat/soy product business, c) whole foods are the way to go, d) I’m already pretty much a stereotype (reference leg warmers, fermenting kefir grains, nutritional yeast, and the fact that I bring my composting home), so that boils down to e) I happily embrace this most stereotypical of foods. I knew *I* would love it (says the girl who puts spinach and carrots in her oatmeal)… but would OTHER people (those notsogranola types) like it??

Tonight, I fed one of my best friends lentil loaf.

And…

She’s still my friend! Ha. Success. In fact, she *LIKED* it! I sweetened the deal with some mashed potatoes (because obviously what ELSE would you eat with lentil loaf?! Helloooo, mashed potatoes go with all things loaflike). But both she and the rest of the fambam luuuurved the lentil loaf!! So much so that they nicknamed it LeLo (pronounced ley-low). I personally like LENTIL LOAF since it sort of typifies the stereotype and makes me laugh, but there you have it.

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Exhibit A. Lentil Loaf.

Delicious, quick, and fabulous. A nice riff on your “traditional American meal” except that it so totally isn’t. And of course it’s served on my fab elephant plate from when I was teeny.

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Vegan Lentil Loaf

Recipe adapted slightly from 86 Lemons, here! Makes one 9 by 5 pan, serves 4 easily for dinner with leftovers. Gluten free and vegan. It comes together in a snap—probably the longest part is cooking the lentils, which is easily done in advance.

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds+6 tbsp water [2 flax eggs]
  • 2 c cooked green lentils (1 c dry yields a bit more than 2 c cooked), split into 1.5 and 1/2 c
  • 1 c rolled oats, divided
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • a good glug of olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 c mushrooms, diced (I used white button mushrooms)
  • 2 c fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 3/4 organic ketchup, divided
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c + 1/8 c nutritional yeast, divided
  • 1/2 c almond flour

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Preheat oven to 375, and line a 9 by 5 inch pan with parchment paper, allowing enough to hang over the sides like handles.

Combine flaxseed and water, and set aside until it gels into an ‘eggy’ consistency.

In a food processor, combine 1.5 c cooked lentils and 1/2 c of oats. Pulse until the mixture is mostly smooth, adding in the almond milk in between pulses. Toss all this into a large bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 c ketchup, 1/8 c nutritional yeast, and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.  Add olive oil to a saute pan over medium heat. Toss in onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add in mushrooms, oregano, and spinach, and cook until the spinach is wilted and the mushrooms are tender. Stir in the ketchup/nutritional yeast/vinegar combo, and set aside.

Going back to the large bowl with the lentil-oat biz, stir in the other 1/2 c of rolled oats, almond flour, flax egg, 1/4 c nutritional yeast, and the onion-mushroom mixture. Stir it all together (and use your hands, it’s really fun), making sure everything is nicely combined. Salt and pepper to taste.
Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothysmooth the top of it, and the have fun painting the top with the last 1/4 c of ketchup. Bake for 35-40 minutes, let cool for a few in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack (using the nifty parchment paper handles) to sit before slicing. Mine was perfect at 35 minutes.

Makes excellent leftovers—just store in the fridge!

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I ALWAYS play with my food…

Cookie Monday

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Cookie Monday.

Because, honestly… Mondays. Ugh. Today was an alarm goes off, I turn it off, roll over and promptly ignore it while carrying on a ridiculous conversation with myself about why I should get up morning. Or not. Not won and I spent and extra half an hour in bed. I am SO ready for this time change, I do not relish getting up in the pitch blackness of ugh.

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At least if you have cookies, Mondays are slightly better. Not that I have these, mind you, I made them last Wednesday and they were eaten in… six hours.

Yeahhh. Hello small batches and starving post-spin class family, bye bye cookies! At least they were a decent post-spin meal, what with having good fats and being refined sugar free and all that. You know, business as usual around here in the hippie natural food universe…

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Also. My lovely neighbors dropped off a bag of pomegranates and they’re GORGEOUS so I’m including photos for your fall pleasure. This is my favorite time of year!

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So now it’s Monday and I’m tragically cookie-free, but lucky for you, I hand deliver cookies to your inbox! Happy Monday, even if they’re virtual. Toddle off into your kitchen and you can have these for yourself in less than half an hour, which would a) make your Monday better, b) prevent bart strike angst by giving yourself something far more productive than work to do (who needs to commute, anyway?), and c) give your body what it wants while tricking your brain into thinking you’re eating something decadent. Everybody (stomach gremlins included) wins!

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Two types of cookies for you today: I made a half batch of each since I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to make more. Life is full of such complicated decisions…

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Quinoa Date Cookies

Lightly sweet, chewy, and thick. These are delicious warm or room temp, and if you make a half batch as I did, you should come out with about 8. Gluten free and refined sugar free. As posted, this makes 8 cookies—double for a full batch! Recipe only slightly adapted from Sweetest Kitchen, here!

  • 1/2 c sprouted quinoa flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp organic cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c dates, pitted
  • 1/8 c coconut oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 squares super dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together quinoa flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. Using a food processor (or alternatively an immersion blender—-this is what I did as I didn’t feel like doing extra dishes, but it works slightly less well), puree dates. Add in coconut oil, egg white, and vanilla, and stir to combine. Add wet into dry, and stir in chocolate pieces. The dough will initially seem dry, but keep stirring and it’ll incorporate. Drop by the spoonful onto your prepared cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for about 10 minutes, until firm to the touch and slightly browned.

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Almond Butter Pumpkin Cookies

Mine came out very soft and flat, with a bit of a gooey consistency (likely the result of too much flax egg, but I don’t care—they were delicious!). Gluten free, vegan, and refined sugar free. Wheeee! Again, I made a half batch of 7 cookies. Double for more! Recipe from the awesome blog Mangia, here!

  • 1/4 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/8 c maple syrup (I use organic grade B)
  • 1/4 c unsalted almond butter
  • 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed+1.5 tbsp water (1/2 a flax egg)
  • 1/4 tsp (runneth over) vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp almond flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1-2 squares dark chocolate, chopped (I used a mexican stone ground vanilla chocolate, so delicious)

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine flax and water and let sit aside.

In a mediumish bowl, stir together pumpkin puree, maple, almond butter, flax egg, and vanilla. In another smallish bowl, whisk together almond flour, coconut flour, spice, and baking soda. Dump dry into wet and stir to combine (cookies are maybe like the most wonderful, easiest thing ever), toss in chopped chocolate, and drop by the spoonful onto your cookie sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes—I checked mine at 10, but let them go closer to 13. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minute (almond flour is delicate), then remove to a cooling rack.

I’m sure these store well, but I had absolutely no opportunity to test this as they disappeared the day I made them. Ah well, cookies are best fresh ;)

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Nuts for texture

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My favorite part of Indian food is the dessert.

Once (not that long ago… ahem, possibly less than a month), my family went out for Indian food at this ridiculously delicious place in LA… and I was goaded encouraged to order dessert before dinner… and then a dessert for after dinner. And I thought, why not?! Because I always get so full with naan and curried goodness and end up eating dessert anyway, and then I can’t move for a week. Or maybe a few hours but it feels like a week.

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So this time I got smart!! A bowl of kheer to start the dinner… and a bowl to end it. A proper way to do things, if you ask me.

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Anyway. This isn’t exactly like the kheer you find in Indian places—it’s made with quinoa and rice milk rather than white rice and dairy (which obviously gives it a nutritional bump), but it’s close enough that I love it anyway. Give me some textural, lumpy puddingy thing and I’m totally sold. Seriously. I can’t stand mousse or regular pudding, but tapioca?! Oh yes. Rice pudding? In a heartbeat. Bread pudding? Bring it. You see? Nuts for texture.

Besides, this one is gluten free, refined sugar free, and full of protein! Why *wouldn’t* you eat this for dessert?! It’s perfect, provided you’re nuts for texture like me :) (or maybe just nuts, that’s a distinct possibility)

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Quinoa Kheer

Recipe adapted from A Brown Table, here! My fambam was in a pudding mood so it served three…
Gluten free, high protein, refined sugar free, and dairy free (if you sub in vegan butter)! What’s not to love?

  • 1.5 c cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp butter (mine is Kerrygold Irish butter, salted)
  • 4 dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • chopped pistachios for garnish

Melt butter over medium heat in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Add chopped dates and cardamom, and saute for just about a minute. Toss in quinoa, almond milk, coconut sugar, and honey, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced significantly (you’ll be able to tell—it will become thicker, with a more puddingy consistency. It will still thicken as it cools, so I stopped mine when it was reduced by about a 1/3). Stir frequently as it simmers, as the milk will scald if left too long. Let cool at room temperature, then stick it into the fridge for another hour or two. Serve chilled with chopped pistachios!

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The perks of being a bulk squirrel

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Hiya!

It’s Sunday. I just came from a fab yoga class and now my joints feel all nice and stretchy and I also feel like there is a hole in my stomach. Mid-morning yoga always makes me SO FREAKING HUNGRY! Oi. But I’m currently placating it with a large bowl of sweet potato-egg-kale-avocado-salsa-ketchup (don’t judge) goodness sooo… things are headed in the right direction.

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And last night I made this!

YAY! for amaranth and lentils.

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If I had an alter ego it would probably be a legume….

This is an easy one pot dish that is ready in under an hour, so it makes for delicious weeknight (or busy night) meals. Additionally, if you’re like me, it’s composed mostly of bulk staples so if you’re a bulk squirrel like me, you likely already have everything. It’s also really adaptable. Don’t have spinach? Use some other leafy green thing. Hate peas? No probs, leave them out or put something else in instead.

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Besides being fast and easy, legumes + amaranth are super protein! Sort of like Super Legume Girl, or whatever my alter ego would be. Pair some super-protein with some free-radical bashing antioxidants from the veggies and all kinds of good minerals and amino acids from the amaranth, and you’ve got one nutritional powerhouse disguised as a delicious dinner.

Serve it for your next weeknight dinner and… BOOM SHAKA LAKA! Tell those free radicals they are NOT invited to your parties!

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Lentil and Amaranth Stew

Recipe adapted from Food Recipes HQ, here! I got a yield of dinner for three, plus leftovers for two.

  • 1 c amaranth
  • 1/2 c green lentils
  • 3 massive carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 garlic clove (1 clove if you like more garlic)
  • 1 carton of veggie broth (1 quart, about 4 cups), divided
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 c raw spinach
  • 2 c green peas, defrosted if frozen
  • 1/4 c nutritional yeast
  • small splash of Bragg’s liquid aminos, coconut aminos, or soy sauce (low sodium)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • chopped cashews, pepitas, and sliced avocado for serving

Heat a large pot over medium high heat (I used a large soup pot for this so I had lots of room for the raw spinach to wilt down). Add amaranth and toast for about 4 minutes, or until you can smell it toasting (it will have a slightly nutty smell to it). Add in lentils, carrots, two cups of broth, garlic, and olive oil. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, adding more broth as needed (the amaranth will start to thicken and absorb the liquid as it cooks). Once you hit the 35-40 minute mark, stir in bell pepper, spinach, peas, nutritional yeast, bragg’s, salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes more, until the spinach is completely wilted and the stew is heated through. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve hot! The amaranth will thicken considerably as it cools—I like it thick, but feel free to thin it out with more broth when reheating for leftovers. Top with cashews and avo!

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Mondays are better with brownies, obviously

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Hiya!

Happy Monday! Because I knoooow these are going to make your Monday that. much. better.

They’re BROWNIES.

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Of COURSE they’ll make your otherwise slightly blah Monday better. Especially when I tell you that they are a) full of health bennies just for you and b) defs allergy friendly. And… as I said…

They’re BROWNIES!

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When have brownies in your inbox *not* made your Monday better? Right. I rest my case.

Have I ever shared my weird brownie proclivities on here? I’m not sure that I have so just in case you were dying to know…

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I’m weird. I like (no. Maybe love) brownies, but… I NEVER eat them. Nor do I ever make them. For some reason, I am never satisfied with the brownies that my kitchen produces. Why? Not crackly enough on the crust. Not chewy enough on the edges or fudgy chewy in the center. Whatever the reason, I am never quite sold on my own brownies, so they kind of get relegated to the bottom of the recipe pile. Which means that I only really eat brownies once a year… at camp.

Guys. These brownies are like CRACK. They are so ridiculously amazing, I can’t stop at one which means that I usually eat them all week long, multiple times a day (it’s a good thing the camp is at 8000 feet elevation…). I have a problem. But also. Those are, strangely enough, made from a mix!! I’m mildly ashamed to admit it (given that EVERYTHING on this blog is from scratch, and I never use mixes when I cook), but there it is. Favorite brownies come from a mix and are made in gigantic sheet pans in the temperamental Two Sentinels ovens that don’t heat evenly. But they’re fantastic. And they’re full of love, which is probably why I adore them so much.

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However. I broke my once-a-year brownie trend for these, mostly because they looked so tasty in the photos and they’re good for me. Ish. Obvs still a treat but whateverrrrrr, happy belated to me and vaccuum vati!

I’m not paleo. I like beans. But I also like a good cooking challenge and I have quite a few paleo friends, so here you go. Paleo brownies in yo’ inbox.

Happy Monday! Sorry I’m not sorry y’all want brownies now, heeheehee!

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Jackson Pollock-style brownies are WAY more fun…

Sweet Potato Brownies

Not quite cakey, not quite fudgy (which is good since a brownie somewhere between is my favorite), totally good for you and easy to whip together. High in Vitamin A/Beta Carotene, good fats, antioxidants, fiber, gluten free and refined sugar free. Recipe adapted from Eat Drink Paleo, here! Makes 9 large or 12 small squares.

  • 1 sweet potato (I used orange), grated in the larger holes on a box grater
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c pure avocado oil*
  • 1/2 c maple syrup**
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1.5-2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2-3 biggish squares of dark chocolate, melted (I used 75%), for topping
  • dairy or nondairy ice cream thing to make sundaes (you know you want to)

*I use avocado oil or coconut for anything above 300 or 325—-they have a higher smoke point. Mine is organic.
**I always use 100% pure organic grade B maple syrup.

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Preheat the oven to 365, and line a 9 by 9″ pan with parchment paper for easy removal.

Get a bicep workout by grating the sweet potato. Toss grated bits into a medium sized bowl, then add in eggs, vanilla, avo oil, and maple. Stir in baking powder and soda, then cocoa powder (try to smash out any major lumps, but it doesn’t have to be perfect). Lastly… stir in coconut flour (avoid using too much, it will make the brownies dry and gritty)—start with 1 tbsp and work from there. I ended up using the full 2 tbsp, but I think I could have reduced it to 1.5. The batter should be thickish. Spread it into the prepared pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes. I took mine out at 25—a tester came out clean and the top was still a bit soft when pressed.

Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then lift the parchment out onto a cooling rack to let them cool completely.

Once cool, “frost” with melted dark chocolate and shredded coconut. It’s a really excellent idea to make these into sundaes… juuust sayin’!

Store them in the fridge in the foil covered pan if you have any left over!

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Cookies that play nice in the sandbox

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OoOooOOOOooohhhh the first of the fall baking has arrived!

PUMPKIN.

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Why isn’t it a year-round thing?? I always think that summer fruit is my favorite thing, but then around comes fall (which happens to be my favorite season anyway) and I get all obsessed with pumpkin. So fickle.

But seriously. Pumpkin is one of my favorite things ever. And healthy cookies are right up there next to pumpkin on the favorite things list, so obviously why would I NOT combine these?! Helloooo.

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I’m going to start my pumpkin hoarding sometime soon…. you know what I mean if you’ve hung around my inbox snark the last several years: come fall, everyyytime I go to the store, I grab an extra can of pumpkin. Can never have too much, right?! … Right. Sorry. I have a problem. BUT. That also means that when everyone else is fighting over the *last* can of pumpkin within a 10 mile radius, I am sitting pretty on my hoarded stash. And can therefore make pumpkin things. All. The. Time. Yep. Be jealous. Or don’t, and implement my genius strategy for yourself… you’ll thank me later.

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These cookies play nice in the sandbox, too, as they’re dairy free, refined sugar free, gluten free, and paleo. Even if you don’t subscribe to any particular dietary theory (like me. I’m an omnitarian), it’s only fair to make cookies that can make nice for other people too, right?! Cookies are meant to be shared. They’re like love, in food form.

Bake love. Share food (preferably with a bestie over tea). Eat. Be happy!

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Pumpkin Cookies

Recipe lightly adapted from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen, here! My batch yielded 10 cookies, about 2.5-3″. Paleo, gluten free, refined sugar free, and dairy free! Not to mention full of beta carotene, healthy fats, and antioxidants. How could you pass up these little gems?! That’s right… I thought not!

  • 1 c almond flour/almond meal
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp refined coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 c pumpkin puree (Just pumpkin, not pie filling pleeease!)
  • 2.5 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • heaping 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I make my own: 1 tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, pinch of cardamom or mace), plus more to sprinkle on the top of yet-to-be-baked cookies
  • 2 large squares of 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped

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Preheat oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together almond flour, coconut flour, sea salt, baking soda and 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice. In a smaller bowl, whisk together melted coconut oil, pumpkin, honey, and vanilla. Stir wet into dry (and do try to avoid overmixing, we can’t have that…). Stir in chocolate, and drop by the tablespoonish onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkleysprinkle some extra pumpkin pie spice on there because that is an excellent idea. Smooth them out just a little… then pop them into the oven for about 15 minutes.

Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few as they’re soft right out of the oven—they’ll seem too soft at first but they firm up nicely. Store them in the fridge, if they last that long!

Your kitchen will smell like heaven. Indulge responsibly ;)

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A lentil and squashlet autumnal party

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You can never have too many lentils.

Ever.

My nickname at work is lentil. That explains a lot.

Besides, lentils are bomb since they give you a protein source to pair with all of the autumnal squashlets (no, auto correct, squashlet IS in fact a word, so there). Wheeeee SQUASH! Not only did I use pumpkin yesterday, but I also got to bust out a (homegrown!) butternut squash! Get ready, there’s going to be an abundance of orange coming in the next few months…

I love that squash coincides with my birthday. It feels like nature’s birthday present!! Large, orangey deliciousness.

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Butternut squash always reminds me of a particularly memorable game of Cranium that took place ohhh, probably sometime in high school… my pair was supposed to be acting out butternut squash, and it was maybe one of the more hilarious things I’ve watched: First word: sounds like…*points at butt*… second bit: *mimes being a squirrel burying something*… lastly and rather violently smooshes hands together—-I had been guessing as she was miming and somehow I guessed it!! Excellent mime skills right there. But anyway… I can’t really cook a squash without thinking about that, hehe.

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Skillet Popped Balsamic Lentils

Recipe adapted from Happy Healthy Life, here! I made one cup of lentils, which, supplemented with all the veggies, fed my fambam of 3 with enough leftovers for at about one meal. My butternut squash was small, so it only made enough puree for 3. Feel free to play with the seasoning—mine was an eclectic bunch of flavors that somehow came out tasting good. Funny how that works, isn’t it?!

  • 1 c green lentils, rinsed
  • 2 c water
  • 3-4 tsp good quality balsamic vinegar, divided
  • a few grinds of cracked pepper
  • judicious sprinkles of salt
  • 1 butternut squash, cubed
  • a tbsp or two of milk beverage
  • 1 tsp butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 4-5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 massive handfuls of spinach, rinsed
  • a bit of chicken (or veggie) broth
  • a good glug of olive oil
  • seasoning to taste*

*I used fresh marjoram, basil, and oregano to sauté the onion, then added cinnamon, cardamom, nutritional yeast and coconut aminos (and more balsamic) to the veggies after I added them in to sauté.

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For the lentils:
Add 2 cups of water to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Add lentils, reduce heat, and simmer until the lentils are done (about 30 minutes). They should be soft but still have some bite to them. Rinse and drain.

Heat a skillet over medium, and add a small bit of olive oil. Once the skillet is hot, add about a cup of lentils, shaking the pan to ensure that they’re evenly spaced. They should sizzle and pop and make all kinds of fun noise. Let them sit for a few minutes, then toss in a tsp of balsamic and a bit of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally. You’ll know they’re done when they get a bit toasty and crispy around the edges. Remove the first batch, add more oil, and repeat until all the lentils are used.

For the butternut puree: Peel and dice squash, discarding stringy and seedy inner bits. Using a steamer basket or your preferred method of steaming, cook squash until very fork tender. Remove from the steamer and mash with a potato masher or a fork (or a food processor, but I didn’t want to do extra dishes). Add a bit of milk beverage (I used unsweetened almond) to smooth it out, and (obviously) a bit of butter and salt.

For the veggies, I did a simple sauté with a bit of chicken stock added. Chop and dice all yo’ veggies, add olive oil to a deep skillet, and let it heat over medium. Once hot, add onions and sauté until translucent. Add cinnamon and cardamom and a bit more olive oil, then the rest of the veggies (zucchini, pepper, mushrooms, and spinach. I added a bit of broth after about 4 minutes of sautéing, then chucked in all the spinach and covered the skillet to let it reduce. Add coconut aminos, nutritional yeast, Bragg’s, or whatever other seasonings you like here, add lentils, and let it cook on low for a few. Serve warm, over butternut squash puree!

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