Garlicky Pumpkin Stew

Alert the press!!! I made a new recipe. ~insert shocked emoji face here~

I saw that a few of my blogger friends were hosting Pumpkin Week this week and I decided, even if it is still 85 degrees here and there is no sign of fall ever arriving, I should welcome any excuse to drink pumpkin beer let myself get into the fall spirit!

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I swear I used some of it for cooking too 😉 Continue reading

Protein Packed Lentil Stew

So I’ve kind of fallen off the recipe wagon. There’s a number of reasons for this- I’ve had a few cooking fails in the kitchen, I just haven’t been inspired to make anything new lately besides soups and stews (which have largely been fails…see reason #1), and the biggest reason is because nothing ever looked good enough to photograph.

I want you guys to feel like what I make actually looks appetizing enough to make yourself. Fuzzy iPhone photos with a promise of, “it tastes better than it looks!” aren’t my aim (but they are what I sometimes have to resort to). You’ve gotta shoot in natural light, without flash, if you want to make something look good.

That’s hard to do when you get off work at 5:30, right around the time the sun goes down. Normally I’d make a few dishes on the weekend to blog about (slash eat for lunch) during the week, but a couple of jam-packed weekends have precluded me from doing that. You guys will know I’ve been having busy weekends when I go more than 3 weeks without a Meatless Monday post.

I decided to make an exception this week, and I photographed my dinner on Tuesday night under the fluorescent lights of my kitchen.

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Much to my delight, it didn’t go so badly!

I’ve cooked with lentils a lot, but never really made anything worth sharing. The dishes always tasted too….lentilly. This dish is an exception. It gets a lot of flavor from the seasoning of the chicken, and from fire-roasted tomatoes. As a lifelong tomato-hater trying to change my ways, fire-roasted is the way to go for me. Pretty much anything will taste great when it’s roasted long enough to char.

I’ve been trying to incorporate more weight training and protein into my fitness and diet; lentils and chicken are both high in protein. Lentils are also a good source of fiber and low in calories, which means a little goes a long way in keeping you full. You’ll actually only find 140 calories in 1/2 cup, which is what I used in this recipe (and it was enough for 3 meals!)

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Jigga what? Yeah, check out those nutritional stats. That’s for one cup (one serving size for me was about 1 1/4 cup, which upped it to 170 calories) of this stew. I only put it one chicken breast, but toss in another and see the protein count increase even more!

Not only did I photograph this finished meal, but I took step-by-step pix too. Aww yeah.

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Start with sauteing some seasoned chicken. I added salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano.Remove from pan.

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Build the base of your stew. Saute onions and garlic, then add lentils and tomatoes, as well as chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover.

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Choose some veggies to bring to the party. Try (and fail) to keep your kitchen mess out of the picture.

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After about 20 minutes, the lentils should have soaked up most of the liquid in the pan. Stir in your veggies and chicken.

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Simmer until ready to serve, and enjoy. Fail once again to not get your kitchen mess (and super cool slipper) out of the frame.

Seriously you guys, this was so good. I split it into three servings…I’m having the last of it tonight and I’m sad. It could probably even stretch into four one-cup servings if you pair it with a nice crusty piece of bread and a salad (I don’t have any bread in my apartment at the moment — I KNOW — so I’ve been eating it by itself or with a tortilla). Lentils are more filling than they look!

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But not more delicious than they look. Because if you ask me, they look pretty damn tasty.

Protein-Packed Lentil Stew
makes 3-4 servings

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I only used one)
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp oregano, divided
salt & pepper
1 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided (or however much you need for your saute pan)
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dry lentils
1 13-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained if desired
1 13-oz container low sodium chicken broth (can substitute veggie broth, or water)
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup broccoli florets (frozen is fine)

Chop chicken into bite sized pieces and season with a pinch of each seasoning. Dice and mince onion and garlic, if not already done. Heat 1 tsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook about 5 minutes, turning once. Remove chicken to a paper-towel lined plate.

Add another 1/2 tsp olive oil to the pan. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add lentils – rinse or pick through your lentils if their instruction says to do so. Add the can of tomatoes. (Drain them first if you want a less tomatoey broth)  Stir, then add chicken broth. It may seem like a lot of liquid, but the lentils really do soak up a lot. Stir again and bring to a low boil. Once it has reached a low boil, lower heat, cover with a lid, and keep at a simmer. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your veggies. I chose mushrooms and frozen broccoli because they are what I had on hand. Once 20 minutes is up, add the vegetables and chicken into the pan with the lentils (now would be a good time to add some more oregano too!), and let simmer until ready to serve (at least 10 minutes).

Serve with a nice piece of bread to soak up all the broth!

Meatless Monday: Autumn Pumpkin Chili

It seems like a while since I’ve posted a Meatless Monday recipe. Between my Grandpa’s passing, the election, health issues, and our vacation…I haven’t really been doing a lot of cooking lately!

Most of my dinners have been anything I can put in the oven, forget about for 20 minutes, then chow down on. Usually this means roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, or the seasonal favorite: squash. (OK and sometimes we put tomato sauce, salami, and cheese on a large slice of sourdough and call it “pizza”…don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!)

I’ve made my parents and boyfriend try spaghetti squash a couple of times, roasted a butternut squash for a delicious soup, and I finally picked up an acorn squash that is currently sitting on my counter waiting to be made into another soup…or maybe just roasted and stuffed with quinoa. The possibilities are endless!

It was really rainy this weekend. And for a girl who has lived most of her life in California, that means it simply rained for about a day straight. So in a search for comfort food that would get my stomach stretched for the marathon-style 24-hours of Thanksgiving approaching us, but not cause premature Thanksgiving weight gain, I made this healthy, hearty chili.

I had ground turkey in my freezer, but I decided to be festive and added roasted butternut squash instead. This would be great with acorn squash, roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, or whatever fall gourd or tuber you find in your grocery store. With plenty of protein from the beans alone, I figured I’d cut out the fat and add more vitamins, nutrients, and fiber by replacing it with squash.

Though I typically love a spicy chili, this recipe has a lot of sweetness from the bell peppers and butternut squash that gives it this interesting sweet-and-savory feel. Of course, me being me, I added cayenne pepper, and if you want it to be even spicier, I’ve added notes on what you can substitute.

This chili has a couple of secret ingredients: instead of tomato paste, I added pumpkin puree (of course always staying in theme!). Next, no chili for me is complete without beer. I really wanted to try making this chili with a seasonal pumpkin ale like Jen does in this recipe, but I couldn’t rationalize buying a whole 6 pack for a single cup of beer, so I used what usually do – a light wheat beer (this time a Hefeweizen). Any kind of seasonal beer would add a delicious touch to this already autumnal chili.

So try it and let me know what you think. And don’t forget the beer 😉

Autumn Chili
makes about five 2-cup servings

3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 1/2 of a small to medium squash)
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
cayenne pepper, if desired
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup beer (I used Hefeweizen, but I would’ve LOVED to try a pumpkin ale!)
1/2 cup frozen corn
oil, for cooking
salt and pepper

Ingredient notes: Any kind of fall squash would work. Any combination of beans would work. I prefer a lighter beer for my chili, but as long as you stay away from hoppy, bitter beer, you’re fine. Bell peppers make this chili more sweet than spicy; replace one with a jalapeno or chipotle pepper for some kick.

Preheat oven to 400F. Carefully peel and cube your squash and toss with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring once. You want the squash to cook a little bit, but it doesn’t have to be completely done yet, as it will cook more in the chili.

While the squash is roasting, prepare your peppers, onion, and garlic. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and saute peppers and onion until soft, about 5 minutes. When the squash is ready, add garlic to the pot and stir, cooking another minute. Stir in roasted squash cubes. {Note: I roasted my squash before to cut down on the cooking time on the stove. You can add uncooked squash at this point, just increase the simmer time so the cubes get cooked.} Add seasonings of your choice: I went heavy on the chile powder, then added paprika, cumin, oregano, and cayenne…plus more salt and pepper.

Stir till everything is coated in the spices, then add canned ingredients: beans and crushed tomatoes. Stir till combined, then add pumpkin puree and beer and stir some more. Let simmer for at least 5-10 minutes {longer if you didn’t roast the squash}. A few minutes before serving, stir in the frozen corn.

The longer you let the chili simmer, the more delicious it will get. I like a thick, hearty chili, so I prefer not to add more beer/water to thin it out.

Serve hot with a side of cornbread!