Category Archives: Bring on the heat!

Eastern Lentil Stew

Last night I was not feeling hugely motivated to make dinner.  I knew we were going to have a simple arugula salad, but I just couldn’t think of anything to pair with it.  I finally decided since nothing was jumping out at me, I was just going to use some healthful ingredients already in the pantry and refrigerator.  So I went searching and made the bold decision to do something with lentils.  My heart started beating a little faster and I quickly searched for a recipe online to accelerate the rate even more.  I finally found it!  A wonderful recipe from allrecipes that had glowing user reviews.  I tweaked it as I normally do and this is what ended up in my stew pot.  Let me forewarn you of a couple of things:  1.  my mouth is watering just thinking about how savory, warm, and exotically spicy this stew is  2.  you will want to make a double batch so you can quickly pull it out of the freezer to get your new lentil fix and 3.  you will need a full dose of BEANO to keep the fumes down in your home!!

Eastern Lentil Stew

Servings:  5-6

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 t fresh grated ginger
  • 6 c veggie broth
  • 1 c red lentils
  • 1 (15 oz) can chick peas
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 c grated or chopped carrots
  • 1 c celery, chopped
  • 1 T + garam masala
  • 1/2 t + cayenne pepper
  • 2 T toasted cumin seeds
  • 1-2 T EVOO
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1-2 t chipotle pepper flakes
  • handful of golden raisins (optional)
  • garnish:  chopped green onion

Heat EVOO with the cumin seeds and chipotle pepper flakes over medium low.  When the cumin seeds are lightly toasted add the onion and cook for 5 minutes.  Next, add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until the celery is starting to soften.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add the remainder of the ingredients (pour off the top 1/3 of the liquid from the canned beans, but use the rest), stir well and turn the heat down to low.  Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring the pot every 10-15 minutes.  Use a food processor or blender to very lightly puree the stew before serving.

Helpful hint–when the stew is at your desired consistency, place a lid on the pot to cover about 75% of the top to keep the moisture in the pot. Continue to cook the stew for the suggested time to maximize the flavor profile of the dish.

Serve this stew with a healthy handful of green onions on top and a big piece of warm, crusty french or sourdough bread.  Enjoy a nice glass of brown beer or dry, fruity white wine with this flavorful dinner!

Bon Appetit!

Sharp Little ‘Nut’ Curry

So, I had a small dinner party last night and wanted to do something a little different…and VEGAN for the group.  I,  myself, was jonesin for some SPICE but I needed it to be at an acceptable, crowd-pleasing level.  So I tried my hand at curry.  My efforts with indian cooking are really pretty sparse and usually not successful–which made me a bit nervous.  Over the Christmas holiday we tried a Butternut Squash curry at my mother-in-law’s following (pretty closely anyway) a recipe we found through Baker Creek Seeds.  It was good, but it needed a lot more flavor to satisfy our very persnickity palates.  The only other curry that I make (and LOVE) is a Burmese Chicken Curry, but that didn’t pass the VEGAN test and seemed a bit boring.  So, I decided to scrap all of my previous recipes/efforts in lieu of trying something completely on my own.  GREAT PLAN!  Sharp little nut curry is what I am calling it, for now anyway.  It turned out fantastic!  The omnivores in the crowd were LOVING this healthful curry–and so were we!  I served it over a saffron and toasted cumin basmati rice with both a heavy red wine and a nice light Chardonnay.  I hope you enjoy it as much as the birthday crowd did!

Sharp Nut Curry

6 servings

1 large Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed (3-4 cups)

2 large yellow onions, chopped

6 shallots, sliced into very thin coins

2 large bell peppers (we used red and orange), chopped

2 large roma tomatoes

2 large chipotle peppers plus sauce (I like Embasa Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce–found at my local grocery store).  VERY HOT, so be careful!

1 1/2-2 c coconut milk (I use SILK’s Plain-much lighter than traditional canned)

2 T toasted sesame oil

8 garlic cloves

1 big (1×1) chunk of ginger

1 T chopped lemongrass–I get mine at my local asian store.  It comes frozen and chopped for easy use and storage!  YUMMMMM!

3 c veggie or chicken stock (you may need more to achieve your desired consistency)

1-2 T grated Jaggery (indian cane sugar)

1-2 t tumeric

1-2 t coriander

2 t mustard seed

2 T cumin seed

1/4 c red lentils

1 T butter (optional)

1 t salt

Bunch of Cilantro

Heat oil in a large dutch oven or saute pan.  Add the mustard seeds and cook over medium-low until they start to pop. Add 1/2 of the cumin seeds and let toast for a minute or two.

While the mustard seeds are warming and beginning to toast, add the following to your food processor and puree until you achieve a nice and thick consistency:  garlic, 1/2 of the chopped onion, ginger, lemon grass, 1 T cumin seed, chipotle pepper (and sauce), tomato, salt.  Add this to the pan with toasted cumin and mustard seeds.  Saute over low for 10-15 minutes.  Add the rest of the onions, bell peppers, jaggery, lentils, tumeric, butter (optional) and coriander and cook for another 10-15 minutes–until the onions and peppers are nice and soft.  Add the squash cubes and stock and cook over very low heat with a lid for 15-20 minutes.  Add 1 1/2 c coconut milk and place the lid so it is mostly covering the pot, but venting to allow some moisture to be released and the curry to thicken.  Cook for another 15 minutes or so.  Test the curry and make flavor adjustments as needed.  When you are satisfied with the flavor and consistency, serve over toasted cumin and saffron basmati rice.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and caramelized shallots (see instructions in next paragraph).

While the curry is cooking add a small amount of veg oil to a small saute pan and place over med-low heat.  Add the shallots and cook until they are soft and have browned (very important for the best flavor) really nicely.  When brown set aside.  Use the shallots as garnish for the curry.

Bright and LIGHT shrimp and couscous or quinoa salad

You can see the lime zest resting top! YUM!

Well, I am happy to report that I am slowly recovering from surgery.  Yes, I had major surgery 12 days ago!  The week before surgery I spent most of my time preparing meals for the freezer and prepping the house for an extended ‘down’ time.  I believe that I have finally made it through the worst of it and will start to reap the ‘rebound’ rewards from my well-planned recovery diet.  Yes, that is right, I have been very careful to maximize every morsel entering my body to provide me with all that I need to heal quickly.  I can fill you in on the details in another post if you are so interested, but that is not what this post is about.  Today I am excited to tell you about my first home cooked meal in almost two weeks!

So my ‘first meal’ criteria was pretty simple and probably fairly obvious considering my introduction with this post.  Here were the requirements:

1.  lots of color

2.  super simple

3.  flavor explosion

4.  dense with micronutrients

So, I armed Andy with a short grocery list and got ready for a fun evening in the kitchen!  I whipped up a beautiful Shrimp Couscous Salad in no time flat and without stressing my body with labor intensive prep work.  I must say, it was fantastic!  About half way through the meal Andy suggested we put this dish on HEAVY rotation at 488.  Man, was I happy to be back in the kitchen and back on my game!  I promise this simple and healthful dish will be a crowd pleaser at your house too!  As you enjoy this dish think about how good it feels to treat your body with the love and respect it deserves!

Bon Appetit!

Colorful and flavorful shrimp and couscous salad

Servings: 4-5

2 c plain couscous or 1 c quinoa

3 c water (reserve about 2 cups of the shrimp stock from your shrimp boil for the couscous or quinoa)

1-1 1/2# uncooked colossal shrimp (16-20 shrimp)–frozen is just fine and you do not need to thaw them

1/4 c red wine vinegar

1/4-1/2 c EVOO (depending upon your taste)

1 T minced garlic

2 t ground cumin

2 t chipotle pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

1 t dijon or brown mustard

2 t + kosher salt

3/4 c diced cucumber

1 c diced red bell pepper

1 c chopped cilantro

3/4 c diced tomato (about 2 medium tomatoes)

1 avocado, chopped

zest from 1 lemon or lime

sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a medium size pot add the 3 c water, kosher salt and a t of chipotle pepper flakes and cook over high heat until it boils.  Add the shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes, until done.  Remove the shrimp set to the side to cool–peel the shrimp once it is cool and set aside.   Bring the water back to a boil and add the couscous.  If you prefer, leave the crustaceans OUT and heat 2 cups of seasoned water for the couscous!  To avoid sticky pasta, add a dash of EVOO to the pot!  Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pot and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix the red wine vinegar, EVOO, hot pepper, garlic, cumin, sea salt, ground black pepper, and dijon mustard together and set aside.

Put the couscous in a large serving bowl.  Add the chopped veggies and shrimp and either stir or put the lid on your bowl and shake well!  Taste the dish and adjust seasonings as needed.  Garnish each bowl with a generous bit of lemon zest or just mix it in with the veggies.  Serve the beautiful salad on its own or with a big chunk of gluten free bread!

Look at all of that great color!

Ginger Lime Shrimp Soup

Rich, creamy, and delicious!

One of the very few things that I really miss about living in Kansas City (besides our wonderful friends) is easy access to Eastern cuisine.  We do have a really good Sushi place right here in Ozark and Indian in Springfield, but Thai and Vietnamese are sadly under represented.  So when I head up to KC for my work trips, I find myself heading straight to some of my old favorites to get my fix for the month.  On my last trip to KC I had this exotically flavored soup called Shrimp Galangal Soup.  I happily stuffed myself and left the restaurant fully committed to recreating the dish at home for my hubby.  When I got home, I did just that and was THRILLED with the result!  I found a recipe with good reviews and an ingredient list that wasn’t too intimidating and went for it!  I had to sub in many of my stock items for some of the true Asian components, but it really was a good imitation of what I had loved so much at the Thai House in OP.  This soup was even better the next day when we heated it on the stove top and added more shrimp and green onion!  I think the next time I make it I am going to do it without the shrimp.  I have a feeling the gorgeous onion, lime, and ginger are strong enough to stand up on their own!  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Andy is in favor of this soup!

Ginger Lime Shrimp Soup

Servings:  6

2 cans light coconut milk–use 1 can of light and 1 regular for a fuller bodied soup

2 cups water

1 t + sriracha hot sauce — or more to taste

1 1/2-2 T + red curry paste — or more to taste

1 # shitake mushrooms cut in bite size pieces.  You can also use baby portabello mushrooms if you have them on hand.

1 onion, sliced

1/4 c lime juice

4 stalks of lemongrass, bruised and cut into small pieces.  Or 3-4 T of chopped.

zest from one lime OR 10 kaffir lime leaves torn in half

1+ 2″ piece of peeled ginger OR Galangal, cut into fine strips

4 T fish sauce

1/4 c brown sugar

1 t chipotle pepper flakes

1/2 c + green onion, chopped.  Cut up a little extra for garnishing.

1 # uncooked shrimp–use peeled if you don’t want the mess, use unpeeled to add a bit more flavor to the broth

Cilantro for garnish

In a stew pot slowly warm the water, coconut milk, onion, ginger, lime zest, pepper flakes, lemon grass, red curry paste, sugar, lime juice, sriracha, and fish sauce.  Cook for about an hour minutes on low heat.  Add the green onions and cook for another 20-30 minutes.  Test the broth and adjust the seasonings to your taste.  Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the shrimp and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Remove the pieces of lemongrass.  Finely chopped lemongrass can be left in the soup.  Serve with a crusty french bread for dipping and a big green salad.

I recommend a buttery chardonnay to wash it down.  ENJOY!

<blockquote>recipe here</blockquote>

Smoky HOT Black Bean Dip

This is one of my all time favorite munchies!  So quick and easy to make and a DELICIOUS appetizer served with wheat thins or whole wheat tortilla chips.  Spread on sandwiches, tortillas, or just about anything you want to JAZZ up a bit!

WARNING:  Don’t forget the beano!!  🙂

Smoky HOT Black Bean Dip

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 red bell pepper gutted
  • 1-2 t chipotle pepper flakes
  • 1-2 t cumin seeds
  • 1-2 T chopped garlic
  • 1-2 T EVOO

Throw all ingredients into a food processor and blend until good consistency for how you intend to use it.

Walnut Cranberry Crusted Tilapia

We started Andy’s birthday celebrations early this year!   So I decided to whip together something completely new AND my own!  So I started searching the fridge and freezer for ingredients.  We had a big birthday party last weekend for the Mr. so there really wasn’t much of substance found.  I did come up with enough to start a healthful and flavor packed dinner though!  We started the evening with steamed artichokes and a flemish sour ale.  The main course was this awesome fish served with a BIG arugula salad.  To top it off we had a fabulous 2005 Jayson Napa Valley Red, one of my very favorites!  To end the meal we had artisanal chocolate from KC based Christopher Elbow, dulce de leche and strawberry balsamic.  Wow, what a great night of laughs and love!   I hope you enjoy this fish as much as we did!

Happy 36th Sweetie!

Walnut Cranberry Crusted Tilapia

  • 1/2 c walnuts
  • 1/4 c craisins
  • 1 t chipotle pepper flakes (or more–to taste)
  • 1 t kosher or sea salt
  • 1 T Chili Powder
  • 1-2 T Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 t peppercorns (red, green, and black are best)
  • 1 1/2 # Tilapia
  • 1-2 T Vegetable Oil

Put the walnuts, craisins, chipotle pepper flakes, salt, peppercorns, flour, chili powder in a food processor.  Blend until the craisins and nuts are a consistency that will coat the fish well.  Put the breading mixture on a big plate and coat each piece of fish with a generous layer.  Let sit while the pan heats up.

Meanwhile heat the  oil (it is best to use veg oil, not EVOO with this dish)  in an appropriate non stick pan.  Heat the pan to medium.  Add the fish and cook for about 2-3 minutes/side.  The breading should turn a nice dark brown and SUPER crispy–be careful not to burn it!  If the fish needs more time to finish cooking through, turn off the heat, put the lid on the pan and let it sit for 3-4 minutes or until cooked.

Rice would be a nice accompaniment with this dish, but NOT necessary.  Just a big GREEN salad is PERFECT–don’t forget a great glass of wine!

Squash Enchiladas

So my mother-in-law, Brenda, thought she was planting one of her favorite veggies, cucumber, in her garden this year.  Turned out to be zucchini–one of her least favorite veggies.  So…Andy and I have all of the squash that we could ever want and use!  🙂   The big problem for me is that I am not really a huge fan either.  So, it was my mission to find tasty ways to incoporate it into our summer veggie mix!

Coincidentally, we had dinner at my other mother-in-laws house a few nights after learning about the zucchini.  During dinner she started talking about this dish that she absolutely loves–Zucchini Enchiladas–what perfect timing for that discussion!  She did not have the exact ingredients, but gave me enough to get started on my own.

I made the dish on Friday night and we absolutely fell in love with it!  I hope it satisfies you as much as it did us!  We are going to put this one on regular rotation until we rid Brenda’s garden of the last of the Zucchini!


  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 medium zucchini, bite size cubes
  • 1 1/2 c frozen corn
  • 2-3 T garlic
  • dash EVOO
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 3 T chili powder
  • 3 T cumin (or more), ground and seed
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 8-10 tortillas
  • sour cream (tofutti)
  • white and yellow mexican cheese (we used less than a bag, total)
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 T dried onion
  • 1/2 t chipotle pepper flakes (or more!)
  • 1-2 avocados, sliced
  • chopped cilantro (to sprinkle on top before serving)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Enchilada:  Saute the onions for about 10 minutes in EVOO.  Add the remainder of the veggies, 2 T garlic, jalapeno, 2 T cumin, 2 T chili powder, dash of salt and pepper.  Cook for another 10 minutes or so.  Prep the enchilada pan with a quick spray of pam–if it is not a non-stick pan.  Then add a thin layer of the enchilada sauce.  Start building the enchiladas by adding a scoop (1/4-1/2 c) sauteed veggies, 1-2 T shredded cheese, and a 1 dollup of sour cream on top of the tortilla.  Roll the tortilla and put in the pan.  Repeat until you run out of the sauteed veggies.  Cover the enchiladas with the remainder of the sauce and sprinkle cheese over the top of the enchiladas.  Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes–until the top is lightly browed and the sauce is bubbling.

Serve with sliced avocado and cilantro on top!

Sauce:  In a blender add 2 cans of stewed tomatoes, 1 T garlic, dried onion, 1 T chili powder, 1 T cumin (or more), 1 t chipotle pepper (or more), dash of agave nectar, 1 t dried oregano. Blend until smooth.  Adjust the seasonings until you have a flavorful enchilada sauce!

Optional additions to the recipe:  Add black beans and/or mexican rice to the enchilada stuffing–yum!

Sweet potato and jumbo shrimp enchilada

We made this recipe last night and it was absolutely amazing!  We have been making vegetarian/vegan enchiladas for years now and really can’t get enough of them, but we decided to be adventuresome and try something new.  If you love enchiladas, you will ADORE this recipe!  If you leave out the cheese and shrimp and add more veggies and some rice, you will get a fantastic vegan meal!  Serve this with a Saison or a glass of fume blanc.

Bon Appetit!

Sweet potato and jumbo shrimp enchilada

Serves 5-6


1-2 T cumin seeds (more to taste)

2 t chipotle pepper flakes

1/2 red onion (chopped)

1/2 yellow onion (chopped)

1-2 T garlic (minced)

1 red bell pepper (chopped)

6-8 small campari tomatoes (chopped)

1 large sweet potato, sliced thin into coins

1 c corn (no canned–frozen or fresh)

1 packet Old Elpaso Burrito seasoning (or the like)

1 # jumbo shrimp (raw, deveined, shelled)

1 c mexi black beans

1 1/2 c nutritional yeast un-cheese sauce (recipe to follow)

1/2 c tofu sour cream

2 cans old elpaso enchilada sauce (medium temp is nice)

1 avocado

1/2 c cubed habenero cheddar cheese

9 flour tortillas — try the homemade version!

In a large saute pan heat the evoo.  Add the cumin seeds and chipotle pepper and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the bell pepper and corn, cook for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the sweet potato and the burrito mix and stir in (try not to break apart the sweet potato). Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Move the veggie mix to the edges of the pan, leaving an open circle in the middle.  Add a splash of evoo if you aren’t using a non-stick pan.  Add 10 shrimp (or what will fit in the open circle).  Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes (until turns opaque and pink).   Once the shrimp is cooked set it on a plate to rest and repeat until all of the shrimp are cooked.  Once you are finished with the shrimp stir the veggies around again to sop up all of the shrimp flavor in the pan.  Turn off the heat and start assembly.

While the veggies are cooking prepare to assemble the enchiladas.  You will need a sort of assembly line to put these babies together.

Spray pam cooking spray on the bottom of a lasagne pan.  Cover the bottom of the lasagna pan with enchilda sauce (1/4 of a can is probably enough).  Put in an easy to reach location probably at the far end of the assembly line.

Cover the surface of a dinner plate with the enchilada sauce (another 1/4 of a can?).  Step one in assembly, so put it close to the saute pan with  the veggies.

Set your tortillas (probably 8-10) near your dinner plate

Cube the cheese and have a plateful handy here.

Set your container of sour cream next in line.

Next will be the cooked rice.

Plate of shrimp and the chopped cilantro

Assembly (this is a dirty job, so have paper towels handy):  take a tortilla and rub both sides on the plate with the sauce to coat (add more sauce to the plate as needed).  Leave the coated tortilla on the plate while you add the other ingredients.  Add a scoop or two of the veggie mix.  Add a dollop of sour cream.  Add two spoonfuls of rice.  Add 3-4 cubes of cheese.  Add 3-4 shrimp and a drizzle of cilantro.  Roll up the tortilla and set in the lasange pan.  Repeat until you are out of the filler ingredients.  Drizzle the remaining enchilada sauce on top (or as much as you like).  Drizzle the nutritional yeast sauce on top (as much as you like).  Bake at 375 degrees F for 35-45 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and/or more sour cream.

Nutritional yeast un-cheese sauce:

1 c nutritional yeast flakes

1 1/2 c soy milk

1 t soy sauce

1-2 t dijon mustard

Mix well.  You can cook this on the stove top for 5-10 minutes to get a nice thick cheese-like sauce.  You do not need to cook the sauce if you are using it to bake–it will thicken as the dish bakes.

Kahlua Chili

My mother-in-law, Brenda, makes this AMAZING chili.  A few years ago, after much begging, we finally convinced her to share the recipe.  Our tradition is that we make it on the day of the first snowfall of the year.  It is sooo  delicious, we are often found making it just as soon as the thermometer drops below 60!  Serve it with sweet cornbread!  Check out my other posts for the cornbread and kahlua recipes!

Kahlua Chili

Servings 4-5

1-2 T EVOO

1 large onion chopped

3-4 garlic cloves diced

2# ground beef

1 red bell pepper chopped

1 large can of crushed tomatoes

1 small can of tomato paste

1 t dried marjoram

1 t ground oregano

2 t cumin

3 T chili powder

salt to taste (1 t is probably good)

1 t cayenne — or more if you like it HOT!

1 can chili beans with the sauce (we like it hot)

1/2 c kahlua

Sweat the onions in the oil in a stew pot for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, bell pepper, chili powder, hot pepper, salt and herbs.  Stir well and cook for another 5 min or so.  Add the ground beef and brown.  Add the crushed tomatoes and paste.  Cook for another 5 min.  Add the chili beans, cover, and cook on low for 20 min or so.  About 5 min before you are ready to serve, add the kahlua and stir in well.

Top with green onions, sour cream, cheese, and/or cilantro

Don’t forget the Beano!!