Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup

I am both blessed and cursed to be forced to cook for just me on a regular basis.  My better half has always traveled, and while for years I cooked for the kids and me, the kids are off cooking for themselves now.  These days, it’s often just “the babies” and me for dinner.

“The Babies”

You might remember or know the story:  There was a time when I was so relieved at not having to cook for a big group all the time that I just made eggs and toast.  It wasn’t long, however, before I got pretty tired of that and began to look around and start cooking exactly what I wanted for dinner.  Why not?  In fact, the kids talked me into writing a separate blog about it.   If you’re a regular reader, you know I blog elsewhere.  Otherwise, check out dinnerplace dot blogspot dot com. 

Stop in at The Groveland Tap:  Fairview/St. Clair — Saint Paul, Minnesota

It doesn’t mean there aren’t nights when I don’t feel like cooking (or cleaning up) and just bring home a great meal from the Groveland Tap–our fine family bar and grill one block down. (We can take the babies to the Tap and sit outside in good weather.) And, of course I sometimes go out with a friend — but most times I do cook.  Often I’m working on something for the soup cookbook or for one of blogs (this gives me real reason to cook), but there are times when I just feel like making myself something scrumptious.

Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup is sort of an amalgam of a couple of those nights.  Many friends and/or testers have eaten  my red lentil soup; it’ll be in the upcoming book.  (In fact, I have made it for an ecumenical Taizé prayer dinner; the soup itself is vegan.) It’s still being tweaked, so I won’t include the recipe here, but  provide a link to a similar soup.  You can also bring soup home from the deli or your local soup nazi.  Anyway,  I had made a big pot for Souper Sunday, a fundraiser at Prospect Park United Methodist (where I work as a choir director), and also had some beautiful Colorado (the best) lamb chops that needed cooking.  The frig held nothing that sounded good as a side for lamb chops, but I kept eying that pot of soup. The aromatics with the heat, tomatoes, lentils, and curry are natural companions to lamb.  I’m partial to rosemary with lamb and, oddly, the flavors melded beautifully.  No arguments were heard between the spices or in my mouth.

If you can get it–and it’s hard to find–buy Colorado lamb.  Here in Saint Paul, Kowalski’s, a small local grocery chain sells only Colorado lamb.  You can easily cook frozen lamb chops; it will just take a couple of extra minutes.

Chops in already-cooked soup make for a truly fast dinner; lamb chops are cooked in just a few minutes. This is a meal you’ll need spoon, fork, and knife for–but I encourage you to pick up the lamb chops at some point. (Red meat is quite a treat.) Get your hands dirty and don’t waste a bite; the tenderest morsels are always closest to the bone.  You can hold the chop by its bone and dip it into the soup if you like.  A bit of crumbled feta is the perfect topping.  While curry and red wine aren’t always companions, I had no trouble putting them together here.  I drank some leftover California cab and was a happy Minnesotan.  While I loved this all by myself, it would make a tasty meal for friends.  (Add some olives for starters, a bit of bread –grilled pita?– with the soup, lemon sorbet for dessert.)  Try this:

Set the table and pour the wine before you cook. You’ll be ready to eat soon.

lamb chops in curried red lentil soup
  serves 2 (two chops each) or 4 (one chop each) with 2 cups of soup for each serving

Hot red lentil soup (4-8 cups)
4 lamb chops, room temperature (I like loin or rib chops, but any will do.)
Olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground or cracked black pepper
1-2 teaspoon(s) finely minced and crushed dried rosemary, to taste and optional
2 tablespoons crumbled feta for each bowl

Colorado loin lamb chops

Heat stove top grill (or outdoor gas/charcoal) over high heat for 2-3 minutes. (You can use a cast iron skillet, too.)  Meantime, drizzle the chops with a little olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary, if using.  Grill for 2-3 minutes without moving, turn, and grill another 2-3 for medium-rare.* As you turn them, do let the chops cook briefly on their sides to cook off/crisp up some of the fat.  You don’t want these too done, as the soup is hot and may cook them just a little more.  Remove to a plate and let rest 2-3 minutes.

Into warm pasta bowls, ladle about two cups of the hot lentil soup.  Add a chop or two for each (as well as any juices on the plate) depending on how big of a portion you’d like, and top with crumbled feta.  Pass pepper grinder and hot sauce at the table.

USDA Cooking Temperatures

Sing a new song,

38 Power Foods — Week 32 — Flax Seed — Flax Seed Granola with Dark Chocolate


well……maybe not ALL:

Granola has a bad rep.  I have relatives who, when they want to make a derisive remark, say something like, “Those granola eaters  are tree-huggin’ their way to ____. (Fill in the blank.) Others say, “Granola is just a crumbled up reason to call an oatmeal cookie breakfast.”  (That might have been Melissa Clark, but I’m not sure.)  And, definitely, granola has the reputation of being full of fat and terribly caloric, despite its delicious character.


Welcome to healthy granola you can eat in amounts larger than one tablespoon without fear, blame, or shame.  Scoop out a bowlful, top it with milk, and call it your own homemade cereal.  Smother your Greek yogurt with a handful of the stuff.  Sprinkle it lovingly on chocolate gelato.  Snuggle it sweetly beneath a mound of fresh berries.  Top fresh vanilla pudding with a  big spoonful plus a quick splash of brandy. Take a little bag when you travel  or go to work to satisfy your crunch attacks.  Put some in a ribboned jar for a birthday gift.   Drizzle a banana with honey for your kiddoes and roll it in this munchy food — for here, at least,  granola is not a snack; it is truly food.  And good food, at that.
Tiny slivers of dark chocolate quell your chocolate desire daily.  In a nice way.

Here’s why:

  • Only 2 tablespoons of heart healthy olive oil.  Applesauce stands in for the missing oil.
  • No white sugar and  no brown sugar.  There is honey; there is maple syrup. In my case, there is Minnesota honey and Minnesota syrup.  While you  might not be able to source local syrup, you should source local honey if possible.
  • More oats than anything, there are plenty of nuts for protein–but not enough to tip the calorie and fat balance.
  • This granola will be fresh and, while not cheap, is inexpensive and luscious compared to store-bought, sometimes stale packaged granola. (Which might not have your favorite things in it anyway.)
  • Dried fruit makes a cameo appearance, but doesn’t dominate as dried fruit is full of sugar, calories, and doesn’t have the fiber you can get in fresh fruit.
  • Plenty of seeds add crunch and nutrition, plus the flax seeds fight heart disease (among other things) as well as add additional fiber
  • Chocolate is for your heart (and mouth) happiness, of course, but can be left out if you’d rather.
  • Try this:

flax seed granola with dark chocolate

Cook’s Note:  Granola is forgiving, like lots of things.  If you don’t have all the ingredients, it will still make.  For instance, if you have only oats, nuts, and raisins, you’ll have granola none-the-less.  You would use a little less liquid or increase the oats a bit to make up for the missing fruit and seeds.  The seasonings are also to your taste.  Don’t like ginger?  Use a bit more cinnamon and skip it.  And so on.  BTW:   Make sure you use fresh nuts to make any granola; nuts become rancid fairly quickly due to their high oil content.  

Eater’s Note:  Granola should be well-chewed for digestive comfort. 

  • 5 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or less per taste and diet)
  • 1/2 cup flaked, sweetened or unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup each; choose 2: chopped walnuts, pistachios,  pecans, or almonds
  • 1/4 cup each; choose 2:  pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and plain sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup each: real maple syrup and honey  (can use all honey, but a mix is tastier)
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup total chopped dried  fruit: apricots, cherries, cranberries, currants or raisins (any/all) cut to 1/2″ pieces when possible (smaller pieces become quite hard later on)
  • 1/4 cup (about 1 3/4 ounces) good quality dark chocolate,  very finely chopped or slivered (optional and added after baking and cooling)

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F

Mix dry ingredients, except dried fruit and chocolate, in a large bowl or soup pot.  (oats through dried fruit)  Meantime, heat liquid ingredients over low heat, in a small sauce pan,  stirring until just warm and well-combined– (syrup, honey, applesauce, and oil). * Pour liquid ingredients over dry and mix well for a few minutes until mixture is evenly moistened.  Pour onto two or three large, rimmed baking sheets lined with aluminum foil and bake 50-60 minutes or until dry, golden, and crispy, stirring 3-4 times during the baking time. Remove sheets from oven and let granola cool.

When very cool, sprinkle chopped dried fruit and chocolate evenly over all and mix well. (If the granola is only partially cooled, the chocolate will still melt. In which case just mix it in.)  Store in a tightly-sealed container for up to a month.  (This granola will not keep well in a plastic bag; use a large glass jar or Tupperware. Store up to a month.)

*The granola bakes crispier if you do not heat the liquid ingredients, but it’s much easier to mix with warm honey, etc.

{printable recipe}

2/23:  A friend has put this into the Weight Watcher point counter; it’s 4.5 points for half-cup.  WOW! Leave off the dried fruit and/or chocolate (or cut back) and it’s even less.

I like my large fish spatula for turning and stirring granola.

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I got the idea for using applesauce and very little oil for granola from the incredible pastry chef and food blogger, David Lebovitz–who says he got the idea from Nigella Lawson.  (I’ve blogged one version of my granola on an earlier post.)  If you haven’t been a frequent visitor at David’s addictive Paris blog, check out the granola, and peruse the site; you’ll be sure to enjoy the trip.  Also available on the site is information about taking tours with David–often sold out– when you’re in Paris.


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If you weren’t aware of it, flax–also known as linseed– is an attractive plant with blue flowers  (grown in many places in the world) from which fibers are spun and woven into linen–and have been nearly forever.  Linseed oil is used as a drying oil for painting and varnishing.

Added to the diet too quickly and in too great quantities, flax seed or meal can cause some digestive problems.  Experts recommend beginning with one tablespoon a day in oatmeal, for instance.

about flax from web md:
 Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, it owes its primary healthy reputation to three of them:

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
  • Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
  • Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types.
  • more here

 Check out Flax Seed Health Questions and Storage issues….at 
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38 Power Foods is a group effort!  

Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available:

Minnie Gupta from

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

  • All sites may not blog power foods every week.
    Are you a food blogger? Join us! 
  • We’d like to have you as part of the group.  Get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits: 

… … … … … …

Sing a new song,
10 Pounds in 8 Weeks Update:  I haven’t given up, but I’ve been sick for 10 days…  And whatever I’ve been able to eat, I’ve eaten—within reason.  WHEN I get well, I’ll be back on the program and exercising.  Will I be done by 17 March?  Hm. Good Question!

38 Power Foods, Week 31 — Walnuts — Leek-Fennel Soup with Walnut Pesto


I didn’t mean to do it, but you can see the steam billowing away from this hot Fennel-Leek Soup with Walnut Pesto.  Hearty without being heavy, this is a lovely light lunch with toasted baguette and cheese..

Left:  Roquefort                     Right:  Aged Provolone

or a lemony start to a special dinner.  Simple pictures are often best and this is no exception.  The soup pot ingredients are mostly fresh fennel, sliced leeks, chicken stock, and lemon juice–cooked up in about twenty minutes until the vegetables are just barely tender.   The only complexity involved, and it isn’t much, is a gremolata-like pesto made in the food processor using today’s power food, walnuts, along with lemon and parsley.  Traditional gremolata contains garlic, but I tossed that in the soup pot intead, so have named the topping a pesto.  You can call it what you like; I also call it good.

As walnuts are the nut grown where I live in Minnesota (there’s a black walnut tree right down the street),  I was happy to blog about them today!  Not only are they locally sourced and extra-heart-healthy goodies, they also improve brain function and are full of anti-oxidants. A good source of easy-to-carry protein, walnuts weigh in at about 185 calories per ounce (about 14 walnut halves.) While we think of walnut oil as special salad oil, in France, at least,  it was in years past used in lamps for light along with candles.  I happen to be reading a book just this week  From Here, You Can’t See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and its Restaurant, by Michael S. Sanders.  Just at the point were I stopped, a local duck farmer was explaining about walnut oil to the author, as many local gardens featured walnut trees and some farms still had walnut groves:

(100 years ago)…  And of course they force-fed geese, mostly for the fat, rather than for the meat.  FOR THE FAT!  Not for using in preservation, because pork fat is better than goose for that, but for cooking!  And the walnut oil, they burned in little lamps, a shallow dish with a wick suspended above — you see them in all the antique shops now — les calèmes.  They had walnut oil, back then, for lights.   Oh, people make such a big cheese of the walnut oil now, eh?  But it’s not that good, it goes rancid fast, and back then it was used almost entirely for lighting.  They had no petroleum yet, that was the next thing to come.  So they burned walnut oil or candles. 

Three things: walnut oil was and is probably used for a lot of things,  but it isn’t terribly useful for cooking per se as it’s heat-sensitive and burns easily.  Also, it does become rancid easily, so buy small quantities and store the oil in the refrigerator.  I have always stored walnuts in the freezer (up to a year); they keep only about a month on the pantry shelf.  Let them come to room temperature before using for baking.

Learn more about walnut here, but first make the soup!

   leek-fennel soup with walnut pesto  

The pesto ready to be made in the food processor.

4 generous main-course servings 
6 small first course servings

      Cook’s Note:  While the soup cooks, make the pesto, and have it ready at the table. This soup is easily vegan if vegetable broth is used instead of chicken stock.  Without the toasted cheese accompaniment, it’s also gluten-free.

 for the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter
  • Pinch aleppo pepper (can substitute crushed red pepper), optional 
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, and sliced thinly
  • 6 leeks, white and light green parts only, well cleaned, and sliced thinly
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1-2 drops hot sauce, optional
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon–or to taste (you need to grate the peel for the pesto-do that first!)

 for the walnut pesto:

  • 1/4 cup each fresh parsley and walnut pieces-whole or in pieces
  • grated peel from 1/2 lemon  
  1.  In a 6 quart soup pot, heat the oil and butter with the pepper over medium heat.  Add the fennel, the leeks, carrot, celery, parsley, herbs, salt, and pepper.  Stir, cover and cook about ten minutes, stirring once or twice; turn heat down if browning too quickly.
  2. Add the garlic, stir, and cook two minutes. Pour in the stock and the white wine.  Season with hot sauce, if desired.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let cook another ten minutes or so until all vegetables are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pesto by placing all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or hand chopper and pulsing until finely ground like fresh breadcrumbs.  Place in a small serving bowl with a tiny spoon at the table.
  4.  When vegetables are tender, purée soup using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor or blender.  Squeeze in about half of the lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding the rest of the lemon juice if you like it.  I liked just a little more salt–this will depend on how salty your stock was. Serve hot with a small spoonful or two of the walnut pesto.

Disclaimer:  For vegan and gluten-free options, please check all ingredients in your own kitchen as some ingredients are available with different options from different manufacturers.  As always, check with your dietician with questions.  
 … … … … … … …

38 Power Foods is a group effort!   Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available.

Ansh –  
Minnie Gupta from

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

All sites may not blog power foods every week.
    Are you a food blogger? Join us!

 Sing a new song,

Make Your Own Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere and lots of drops to drink.

This gorgeous bark is one that Dave had made for me for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago.  Truth to be told, his bark is better than mine.  Candy maker, I’m not, though my toffee was to die for this year.  (pat pat)

Make someone happy. This bark is quick, incredibly decadent, makes lots, and is much less expensive than a big box of perhaps elderly chocolates off the store shelf.   It’s also a beautiful candy you might want to make together.  The recipe came from the Food Network (courtesy Dave Lieberman), as do so many scrumptious things these days.  There is hardly an easier dessert to make except perhaps to clean strawberries and arrange them in a bowl come summer.  And that’s not really making dessert.  Serve with  a little port or a coffee laced with brandy.

Dave’s Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest

1/2 c slivered almonds
3 cups chocolate morsels (I like 1/2 milk chocolate and 1/2 bittersweet)
1/2 c dried cranberries (We like cherries, too.)
1/2 tangerine, zested

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line a 13×9″ baking pan with aluminum foil.

Lay out almond slivers on baking sheet.  Bake in oven until light brown, shaking the baking pan occasionally to mix them around, about 10-15 minutes.

Melt the chocolate morsels in a double boiler over low heat.  Mix in the cranberries, almond slivers and tangerine zest.

Pour into prepared pan.  Smooth the chocolate mixture out into an even layer.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour.  Use a knife to break up chocolate into jagged, varied sized bars.
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Lose 10 Pounds in 8 Weeks or Subtract 35,000 Calories — Update

I finally got the crud the rest of the world has had, so I am off schedule a bit this week.  3 pounds so far and even while ill I’ve stayed on the food program.  For now, the exercise portion is off-schedule.  I’ll be back at it as soon as I’m able to stay on my feet for longer than a few minutes.
Keep cheering!

Sing a new song,

Meatless Mondays–Green Chile-Vegetable Crock Pot Soup

Vegan and Gluten-Free
On Monday mornings, I read the Sunday New York Times. (Read Mark Bittman’s article on bread in yesterday’s NYT magazine–beautiful.)  I’m totally perverse.  Occasionally I snuggle up on the couch for a Sunday afternoon with it, but I work Sundays…


and after I eat a late lunch that I never cook, I typically read something a wee bit ephemeral like the current book club book, a Diana Gabaldan novel, a P.D. James or a Dorothy Sayers (I’m re-reading all of her mysteries this winter).  Right now I’m stuck, really stuck on a book called, FROM HERE, YOU CAN’T SEE PARIS, by Michael S. Sanders (2002, Harper Collins)  I’ve read a lot of books about living in France (Isn’t there a plethora?), and enjoy them all, but this guy describes things so vividly I feel not only like I’m right there, but perhaps I’m the one writing or maybe participating in some way.  Quite touching, quite moving, quite arms-open-wide-here’s-how-it-feels.

There are times on Sunday that we go for a long walk with the doggies; we live near the Mississippi River and there’s a beautiful, miles’ long parkway with walking-bike trails.  In the winter, it’s the only time we go to The Mall of America, despite the fact that it’s ten minutes away.  Great place to walk in bad weather if it’s not too crowded; I seldom buy anything but lunch.

Anyway, that’s why I read the NYT on Monday after I do my power walk (which now includes four minutes of running a day–I keep edging it up–go bones) and have breakfast.  (Breakfast today is a chopped Minnesota Honey Crisp Apple with 1/2 cup Fage No-Fat Plain Yogurt and a tablespoon of my own granola, which is terribly good for you!)  Dave’s back in his home office or traveling, and I rarely blog on Mondays…except today…so I can just sit and enjoy the paper at my leisure while I catch up on laundry.
Today’s a little different…when I just had to share a simple, flexible, 0-1 Point WW chile vegetable crock pot soup on a meatless Monday. I would easily say this is 0 Points, but I’ve put in a sweet potato and it may make the second cup count as a point; I’m no Weight Watchers expert.  I’ve had such good responses to my 0-Point Vegetable Soup a la Provence, that it spurred me to make another soup to keep me on my fitness program and to have at-the-ready …


Whether or not it’s cold where you live, this is a warm-up; the chiles and hint of chile powder take the vegetables out for a run while you do whatever all day long.  You then have lunches–no temptation to go for take-out– or can freeze this in one or two-quart containers so that you don’t get bored with it.  If you’re not watching every calorie P and Q, you might have a few tortilla chips and a little grated cheddar on top.  Feeding a family or an individual who likes a larger, heartier meal? Serve two cups of  the soup ladled over a half or whole cup of hot brown rice– or even 1/2 cup each pinto or black beans and rice.  I like to blend just part of this soup and return it to the crock pot so that it has a thicker appearance and texture.  Try this:


slow cooker green chile-vegetable soup
     8-10 servings
Cook’s Note:   Switch the vegetables around to accommodate what you have or like.  Be sure any purchased or canned ingredients are labeled “gluten-free,” if needed. If you’d like a vegan version, just leave out the cheese garnish.
  • 1/2 cup white wine or water
  • 2-quarts vegetable stock, gluten-free
  • 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 7-ounce can chopped chiles, undrained
  • 3-4 drops hot sauce (I like Tabasco)
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 sweet potato peeled, large dice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 each yellow squash and zucchini, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled, sliced thinly
  • Handful of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup corn, frozen or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon each kosher salt and ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon each:  fresh ground black pepper and chili powder (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • tortilla chips (gluten-free) or grated cheddar cheese, if desired for garnish
 Add all ingredients to a 6-7-quart crock pot.  Set on high and cook four  hours or set on low and cook 7-8 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Remove about 1/3 of the soup to a deep pot or large bowl and puree using an immersible blender (or in batches in the food processor or blender) and return blended portion to crock pot. Stir well.  Serve hot as is or garnish with grated cheese or tortilla chips, if you like.  If desired, serve over hot brown rice.   Cool and refrigerate leftovers within two hours for up to three days in tightly-covered containers or freeze as long as 4-6 months
Stove-top soup:  Bring all ingredients to a boil in a 10-quart soup kettle.  Lower heat to a healthy simmer and let cook 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.    Follow rest of directions above.
Interested in more crock pot/slow cooker or soup recipes? Check out Kalyn’s Kitchen Slow Cooker from Scratch    or Lydia Walshin’s Soup Chick dot com. Enjoy!
Disclaimer:  While this recipe appears to easily be both vegan (without the cheese garnish) and gluten-free, I am not a dietary expert.  Please be sure of your ingredients if you are on a special diet and consult a dietician with any questions.

Chinese New Year Stir Fry with a Minnesota-Thai Accent

Dave likes to say, “You don’t like Asian food.”  It’s not true and he actually knows it.  What I don’t like is food from a greasy “Chinese” take-out place.  What I don’t like are limp vegetables and high-fried protein mixed in a shiny, gelatinous sauce full of sweetness and calories I neither need nor want.  I adore the real deal anywhere and, if I’m at home,  pull out the Barbara Tropp when I need inspiration, instigation, or education. What he doesn’t say out loud is that he’s the better Asian cook; he’s just too often too busy to make dinner.  I do love to see him in the kitchen.  Yep.

Here he is helping cook a gorgeous Chinese feast last year…with friend Jim.

or here…all by his handsome lonesome in our Colorado kitchen:

Sometimes, like everyone else, I just wing it or take a basic recipe and ad lib.  Nothing ventured, no dinner. This fine, quick meal is a sort of Szechuan-Thai-Minnesotan fusion as it combines the garlic, ginger, and peppers of a Szechuan meal with the fish sauce, fresh basil, and lime of Thai food tradition, and finishes off with the northern American (Minnesotan) winter staple, walnuts. 

The walnuts were awesome in this dish; don’t skip them.

I made jasmine rice because that’s what’s in the pantry and also because I adore its nutty, fragrant presence at the table. Set the table (plain mats, small bowls for rice, cups for tea, chop sticks), brew the tea, start the rice, and make the stir fry; it should come out fairly even.  Add a little Chinese music off the internet, if you like.  Here’s a youtube I enjoyed.

This is what I do for my Asian meals–just a simpler feel. Nothing fancy.  I include silverware as well as chopsticks.

 Try this; you’ll be happy you did. If you’ve been dissatisfied with your attempts at stir fry before, use my method and see what you think.  Don’t buy any pre-made sauces and, no, you don’t need soy sauce here.  Next time, switch it around with your favorite vegetables or use tofu or pork instead of chicken….

chicken-vegetable stir fry with walnuts
 serves 4 people generously

  • 1/2 cup chopped or halved walnuts, toasted in a pan on the stove on low for 5 minutes
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
  • Fresh ground black pepper, kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon each grated fresh ginger and minced garlic
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1  – 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned (matchsticks)
  • 3/4 pound haricots verts or regular green beans cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal*
  • 4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lime (use 1 tablespoon juice while cooking and the rest for garnish at table)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup basil, julienne (sliced in thin ribbons)
  • 2 tablespoons red or green onion, minced

1.  Before making stir fry:   Set table. Make tea or pour wine.  Set aside toasted walnuts.  Make rice:  combine 1 1/2 cups dry rice with 1 3/4 cups water with two good grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook (a tiny plume of steam should be escaping) for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat. Fluff with fork.  Let sit until needed.
2.  In a medium bowl, stir together salted and peppered chicken pieces with 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce.  Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or a large, deep skillet and add the garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper.  Let cook a minute before adding chicken.  Let brown well, turn, and brown on the other side until cooked through.  Remove to a clean bowl.
3.  Add onions, cabbage, carrots, green beans, and mushrooms to the wok.  Cook, stirring, until vegetables have just begun to barely soften, about two minutes.  Remove vegetables from wok and add to the bowl with the chicken.
4.  Pour into the wok the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon lime juice, along with the cayenne, and simmer for a minute or two to reduce before adding back in the chicken and vegetables.
5.  Stir in the other tablespoon of fish sauce, let heat through; turn off heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.   If too dry, add a little more chicken broth; you want some sauce here for your rice. Sprinkle with reserved walnuts, basil, and onions.  Serve hot with rice and lime wedges.

*If you have older or thicker regular green beans, slice them lengthwise in addition to cutting into 1-inch pieces.

Cook’s Note:  If you don’t like spicy food (and this isn’t terribly spicy), leave out the crushed red pepper and try just a tiny pinch of cayenne in the sauce to give the meal a little edge.



  Basil Chicken Fried Rice

 Ham Fried Rice

Tofu Stir Fry

 Sing a new song,

38 Power Foods, Week 30 — Pistachios– Tomato Soup with Yogurt Swirl and Pistachios

I’ve been making lots of soup lately–for good reasons.  There’s a soup book on the way plus I’m watching my calories pretty carefully, so am eating lots and lots of vegetables.  The other day, I made a pretty special tomato soup, which I blogged on Dinner Place…. Next day, I had to have something different; yogurt and pistachios did the trick.  I mixed in a little yogurt to one small portion of my soup, spooned it into the middle of the bowl, and topped it all with chopped pistachios.  I had a partial “cream” of tomato soup and some perfect crunch for texture.

While kids often balk at green food (except for green eggs and ham or grapes, I guess), they usually love pistachios.  I think it’s their fun-to-open-shells–no nutcracker needed–, which makes eating them a bit of a chase, a puzzle,  even a trial sometimes.  These little southwest nuts pack a wallop nutritionally (I put them in my homemade granola all the time).  Like other nuts, they’re heart healthy,  high in protein and fiber, but are also rich in potassium–a great treasure.  Read more about the nutritional benefits of pistachios here.  They make wonderful snacks as they are, but are also good additions to cookies, ice creams, puddings, cereals, fresh fruit, or root vegetable dishes.

light and lusty tomato soup
  serves 4

  • 1 small yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces 
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced (use a little more celery if you have no fennel)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Generous pinch each:  crushed red pepper and Herbes de Provence (see above for substitutions)
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine*
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon honey          
  1. Place onion, celery, carrot, and fennel in food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process, pulsing, until vegetables are diced.  (Or dice by hand.)
  2.  Heat a 6-quart heavy pot over medium low heat with the olive oil, pepper, and Herbes for a minute or until fragrant.  Add the whole garlic cloves and cook for a minute or until golden; turn and let cook another few seconds before adding the vegetables from the food processor.
  3. Stir in the fresh basil leaves, kosher salt, black pepper.  Cook for five minutes, stirring, until vegetables are beginning to soften.
  4. Pour in water, wine, broth, and tomatoes.  Stir in honey.  Bring to a boil.  
  5. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes or so until all vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Puree using an immersion blender, in batches in the food processor or blender, or mash with a potato masher.  Alternatively, eat as is.
  7. Serve hot garnished with one of the following: chopped fresh basil, croutons, or chopped pistachios for vegan version.  Grated Parmesan cheese or a spoon of plain Greek yogurt for Gluten-Free version.  If you’re ok any way at all, choose what you’d like, though just the Parmesan and a little fresh basil are perfectly perfect.  

*Replace the wine with water if need be.

The Parmesan version

 Cook’s Note:                        To Make the “Cream” of Tomato Soup version:

Ladle one cup of soup into the bowl.  In another small bowl, ladle in about a half cup of soup and stir in a tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt until well combined.  Spoon the yogurt mixture into the middle of the soup bowl and top with chopped pistachios. 

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 Sing a new song,

10 Pounds in 8 Weeks or Subtract 35,000 Calories–Week 3

Light and Lusty Tomato Soup–Yesterday’s Veggie Lunch. My recipe here.


Week 3 of my fitness program and I’ll admit it’s not going as quickly (is that “as well”) as I’d like–if I’m measuring success by weight loss, that is.   I’ve lost 1.5 pounds after finally buying a scale and also figuring out how it works.   I feel better in certain ways.  For instance, it’s always nice to be taking care of yourself, isn’t it?  I stretch out daily, so my body feels looser, more able.  I thought the grocery bill might go down after giving up most cooked  or restaurant lunches and quite a bit of meat, but vegetables and fruit are expensive.  As you know.  I’m struggling with mid-afternoon munchies, which is a new thing; I rarely snack.  A tablespoon of almonds or a tiny piece of low-fat cheese and a big cup of decaf green and mint teas mixed are my solution.  Perhaps 1 or two Triscuit triangles for crunch…this is not easy.

As I’m slaving over the soup book–re-writing and editing, I’m sitting at the computer way too much.  I am thinking of moving it to the kitchen counter every other hour to stand rather than sit.  I think it’d be better for me anyway, though recent research shows those office workers who are standing all day long at high desks are having serious foot (feet?) problems.  We’ll see.

As a foodie, I often ponder the problems our country has with both hunger and obesity.  I think even more about our entire world and pray for the progress of all those working to alleviate hunger.   I’m struck by and often heartsick that I, along with millions of other Americans, must count every mouthful because I’ve been blessed by such plenty.  That there’s an over-bearing, over-arching, over-whatever diet money-making machine in the United States that is such big-business that many people make a living at trying to make people like me smaller.  The irony is not lost on me.  I would like, as one dear friend once said, to “not eat more than my share.”    Read about the real, desperate need for food in Syria on the World Food Programme site here.


Kept up with my 4x week aerobic exercise, which is some variation of or, most often, this particular Leslie Sansone 2 mile workout on youtube.  I do it in family room while watching one of the news shows to which I easily admit I’m addicted.    I add 2# weights in my hands for about half of the walk for the arm exercises.  Daily, I do a stretch routine that includes all the muscles I can find.  I often include prayer in this routine.   Twice a week, I do a regular strength-training session with the 5-6 # weights recommended by my former physical therapist who insists low weight and slow reps are the key to strength.  Not continually increasing weight as so many folks believe.  I have suffered from tendonitis repeatedly, have herniated discs in my neck, have had surgery for carpal tunnel, lots of hand therapy…  In other words,  I’m careful with hands and arms.

I have kept my food promises, but fight cravings for carbs like pizza. I have some and try not to have too much; I include salad.  My breakfasts are a cup of fresh fruit with 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt and  a spoonful of my homemade, very-low fat granola and a small bit of nuts.  If not fruit and yogurt, I make a veggie omelet:

Sometimes I cook vegetables like  half an onion, a yellow squash, mushrooms, etc. (whatever I have–often spinach) and make enough vegetables for two days, storing the rest in the refrigerator.  This hastens the breakfast cooking, though a veggie omelet just takes a few minutes anyway.

My lunches may be fruit salad, green salad, or vegetable soup, which just feels better in Saint Paul during the winter. (It’s snowing as I speak.  I do love it.)

 My vegan-gluten free soup is totally luscious and I’ve made it several times now.  My husband is fine having it for dinner if I’ve eaten a more regular meal at lunch and must stick to vegetables for supper.  I add some garlic bread or a piece of baguette broiled with cheese for him.

Vegetable Soup a la Provence– recipe here  0 Points on Weight Watchers

Dinners may be something like this:

My One-Pan Salmon with Spinach, Peppers, and Onions:  recipe here.

  Or I might add a little something to the vegetable soup:

Oven-Baked Vegetable Soup with Poached Egg, recipe here.

Last night, I worked on a new stir-fry, which I’ll share next week sometime.  It’s a fusion of Thai, Chinese, and maybe Minnesotan  as it contains walnuts–our unofficial state nut that grows right here on my street.

You can see I haven’t been starving, but you can also see what I’ve been doing.

Thanks for your support!  I’d love to hear about your fitness efforts!  Wednesday blessings.

Sing a new song,

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In case you missed last week, here’s what I’m doing:

My current fitness goals include these objectives:

  •  lose ten pounds in eight weeks by changing/cutting back on my food intake and to….
  •  put in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 4 days a week (outdoors when possible)
  •  do a stretch routine daily
  •  weight train 3 times a week
  • blog my progress weekly

If you do the math, we’re talking about (how do I get) 10 pounds off by Saint Patrick’s Day (Sunday, March 17), which, if you’re a long-time reader, you know is when I have a houseful of potato soup and soda bread:

I have a total of 35,000 calories to get rid of by any means that works.  I can do the math.  I know what foods have what calories (I’m a food blogger and have cooked all my life!) and I know what calories are burned by my typical exercise routines.  If I wanted to buy a beautiful $35,000 car for cash, I’d have to bank the money monthly–right–until I had enough to walk in to the dealer and lay down my check. (I’m doing that actually–for a trip, not for a car.)  To lose weight, I use the same concept, but in reverse.  I START OUT WITH the 35,000 in my “bank” and I take some out each week until there’s nothing left.  If God is good (and I know that’s the case), I’ll have lost 10 pounds.
My way.  Still eating things I like within reason.  To make things rounded off and easy, I plan to take away, subtract, lose (whatever) 4,000 calories per week for a total of 32,000 calories.  The other 3,000 or 377  per week (53 per day) will come from less fat and dairy in my regular daily diet.

The weekly goal is to take away 4,000 calories per week for a total of 32,000 calories like this:

  1. 30 minutes of low aerobic exercise (walk/light dance w/ 2 min run) a day 4 days a week (400 cal.)
  2. No cream in my coffee 6x a week (Even God rested on Sunday.) (600 cal.)
  3. No meat -2 nights a week/Cut back a bit other nights (1,000 calories)
  4. Vegetables or fruit ONLY 4 lunches per week–the lion’s share (2,000 cal.)

Slow Oven BBQ Ribs with Spicy Broccoli-Potato Salad

Barbeque ribs made in my kitchen oven on a cold, cold day made it seem like…well, somewhat nearer to summer, let’s say!

 In the middle of of the winter, I become entranced with the idea of summer food.  I crave hamburgers on the grill eaten outside at the picnic table.  I adore the idea of Sangria and a big crab salad.  (I have the opposite reaction when in mid-July I crave beef stew. Every year.)

Maybe it’s just vacation that draws me.

But I really think it’s the food.

So I make a summer meal the best way I can.  I throw a checked tablecloth on the dining room table, put the beer mugs in the freezer, and make something we typically only eat in the summertime.  Like ribs.  Just in time for Super Bowl or any other cold February day.  Brrr.

 Here’s how… in (mostly) chronological order with photos:

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               Cook’s note:  These ribs cook for three hours. You’ll make the broccoli-potato salad during the last forty minutes (or earlier, if you’d like).

slow oven barbeque ribs and spicy broccoli-potato salad
makes 1 rack of ribs and plenty of potato salad for 4-6

Disclaimer!  These “recipe” ingredients (with the exception of the bbq sauce and the mustard vinaigrette) and the methods are pretty loose;  I did not document my process as I often do.  Use your best cooking sense and make this meal your own.  For instance, I do not measure rub ingredients; I mix a rub and smell it to see if it’s about how I’d like it.  (Click on “favorite rub” to find a rub you’d enjoy.)  And I don’t put brown sugar in my rubs, which most people do.  My brown sugar is in my sauce.  Do make  your own barbeque sauce…link provided below.   Or take a basic recipe from somewhere and make it your own.  Don’t buy sauce; it’s a ripoff.  You’ll love having it in the refrigerator for burgers or chicken.  Have fun!

 Preheat oven to 300 degrees    Dry ribs with a paper towel and rub both sides well with your favorite rub.

  • I like approximately 2 teaspoons each kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, rosemary, and dehydrated onion and garlic.  I then add 1/4 teaspoon each ground cayenne and cinnamon.  Mix this all together in a small bowl before rubbing on ribs.  (Enough for one rack of ribs–or make more to your taste.)  Some cooks apply this rub the night before, storing rubbed ribs in the refrigerator.  I do it right before I cook them.

Place rubbed ribs on a foil-lined sheet pan and let roast 2 1/2 hours, turning over once midway through cooking time.  In the meantime, make your own barbeque sauce.  (Scroll down for my “recipe.”)

About 40 minutes (or more),  before the ribs are done, start the potato salad:  Place 10-12 red potatoes in a heavy Dutch Oven with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt along with 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.   Heat pan over medium-high flame and cover tightly. Reduce heat to medium low.  Let cook twenty minutes or so, turning down heat if potatoes are browning too quickly or turning up if they’re not cooking.   (If you’d like a boiled egg in your potato salad, now’s the time to make one. Without the egg, the broccoli-potato salad is a hearty vegan dish.)

 Cut two larges heads of broccoli into florets and chop 2 tablespoons red onion (finely)  and 1/4 cup each  fresh parsley, red or yellow bell peppers, carrots, and celery.  Set aside all the vegetables except broccoli.

 Add broccoli to pot and cover for another ten minutes or so or until both potatoes and broccoli are tender.  They may get crispy or browned–no matter.

In the meantime, check the oven:
After about 2 1/2 hours:  Remove ribs from oven and brush thickly with barbeque sauce. Return to oven.  Repeat every ten minutes 2-3 x until ribs are tender and browned (or until they’re cooked to your liking.) 

Back to the potatoes and broccoli:

 When broccoli and potatoes are tender, remove from pot, chop into 1-2-inches pieces and place potatoes in a large bowl.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, a pinch of crushed red pepper,  and drizzle well with Mustard-Tarragon Dressing while hot (see below for dressing recipe.) Stir well.  Add the broccoli along with reserved chopped fresh vegetables and a chopped boiled egg, if using.  (Skip egg for a vegan version.) Stir well, taste and adjust seasonings, adding more dressing as needed.  Serve warm or at room temperature with extra dressing at table.  (You can choose to add the broccoli along with the potatoes if you like; it’s simpler.  I like the vinaigrette to hit the hot potatoes.)

When both potato salad and ribs are done, cut ribs into two-rib portions and serve with warm or room-temperature broccoli-potato salad.  Enjoy!

Wine, if you’re not drinking beer for the game:  Any California zinfandel.


 Barbeque Sauce

2 cups each ketchup and chili sauce
1/4 cup each lemon juice and red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons each yellow mustard, Worcestershire, A-1 Sauce
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4-5 Big swigs of Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons celery seed

 Whisk together in a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium flame. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Lower heat to simmer and let cook 30 minutes.  Store leftovers in a tightly sealed jar for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Mustard-Tarragon Dressing

1 clove of garlic, crushed and minced or grated

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

3T white wine vinegar (I like Chardonnay, but any will do.)

9T extra-virgin olive oil (the best you have for this salad)

1/2 t kosher salt and 1/4 t fresh ground pepper

2 drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco or more to taste

1T chopped fresh tarragon  or 1 t dried

In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, mustard and vinegar. Slowly add olive oil, whisking all the time or after every addition. Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce and tarragon. Whisk until well-emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.   Store leftovers in a covered jar so you can shake the dressing right before each use.
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Sing a new song,

38 Power Foods, Week 29 — Pecans — Light Winter Vegetable Gratin with Savory Granola

Each Friday, a wonderful group of women reaches across cyberspace and joins culinary hands to salute one very healthy food, one single beautiful ingredient from Power Foods : 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients.  (Scroll down for the list of blogs.)

I won’t say it’s not a challenge to come up to that gorgeous plate each week.  If I’m busy learning music for church or have my daughter home, or am busy with the soup book, I sometimes can’t give the opportunity the intelligent focus and attention it deserves.  I used one great recipe for more than one blog recently….life can get ahead of me sometimes.  Hopefully I’m forgiven!

This week, the week of pecans, I had the time I needed to give this a good stab.  To give it my undivided creative space.  I’m grateful for the opportunity and the chance to move one sweet iota further in my cooking and writing.  I hope you’ll enjoy the idea of this light vegetable gratin…which is maybe a bit more like a terrine in character, though not in the size and shape of a terrine.  There’s no cream and no butter here unlike most gratins.  There is a crusty, crispy topping; it’s a savory oatmeal granola without butter (yes, it has olive oil) to which I’ve added the traditional gratin component of cheese, but also finely chopped pecans.

While pecans are an American nut staple grown in the southern states, they’re not terribly common in other parts of the world, with the exception of South America. High in protein (though lower than almonds and walnuts), they are also high in healthy unsaturated fat, a good source of fiber and vitamin E,  calorically dense, and weigh in at nearly two-hundred calories per one ounce serving. Store them in the freezer and use as needed.  They are excellent for baking, cooking, and for general snacking.


Gluten-free and easily vegan (leave out the Parmesan), this winter vegetable gratin with healthful  pecans in its topping is not only a gorgeous side if you need or your partner really needs a chop… but is a lovely lunch or entree for those in love with vegetables. (You might add more pecans for protein for the vegan version.)  A sharp knife, a shallow dish (I used a heavy quiche pan in lieu of a gratin dish as I liked the shape, but even a 2 quart Pyrex would do), and a boatload of winter vegetables are the central components of your beautiful, filling meal.  Try this:


winter vegetable gratin with savory granola


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (needn’t be extra virgin)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 stalks celery, trimmed, stringed, and sliced thinly
  • 2-3 parsnips, peeled, and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, cored, and sliced thinly
  • 1 turnip, peeled and sliced thinly  
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth                                       
  • 2 tablespoons white wine      
  • finely grated lemon rind, optional garnish (at table)       

granola: (in a medium bowl, mix together well:)

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon each:  kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 (pinch) aleppo pepper (can sub crushed red pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese (omit for vegan version)
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped finely
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, rubbed well in your hands or chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable broth   


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius).  In a small bowl, mix together red onion, garlic and parsley; set aside. With 1-2 teaspoons oil, brush the inside of a 9-10shallow casserole dish or gratin dish.
  2. Layer carrots, celery, parsnips, fennel, and turnips in dish, drizzling each layer with a little olive oil, salt/pepper, and sprinkling each layer with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the onion mixture.  (Place the rest of fennel at center if possible.)  Mix the broth with the wine and pour over the vegetables.
  3. Top  with savory granola mixture* by crumbling it evenly over the vegetables. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 30 minutes until granola is crispy and vegetables are tender.
  4. Serve hot with a bit of finely grated lemon rind, if desired.  

*You may not need all of the granola; you can eat the rest as is for a good snack.
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 If you liked this, you might like my Derby Pie–a Pecan-Chocolate-Bourbon specialty made only for the Kentucky Derby–May 3-4, 2013.

Or you might like my Go Nuts!  which can be made with all pecans or a mixture of  nuts:


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Minnie Gupta from

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

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P.S. If you linked my cinnamon rolls to your blog, I’d love to know who you are!  It’s now my top post in nearly five years.   I’d like to thank you….

Sing a new song,