Crock Pot Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew

Stew3It’s finally beginning to look like autumn in northwest Oregon. After a long, drawn-out summer of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s (not that I’m complaining), the mornings are getting chillier and the weather prediction for this week is rain, rain, rain. I have to admit that I love the crisp autumn weather, but after a day or two of rain I’m ready for sun again. I think I was spoiled with an unusually sunny summer at home in Washington, and I’m dreading all the the bleak, gray days to come.

The clear, cool days are my favorites. My college campus has a huge variety of trees, and this time of year is so beautiful. I love walking to class under a canopy of shocking red trees, or sitting on a bench and having a leaf fall onto my head. On my morning runs I like to look at all houses decked out in spooky Halloween decorations, and our little apartment is covered in pumpkin/ghost/witch/skeleton paraphernalia. Fall also signals the beginning of soup season, and I’ve been loving my little red Crock Pot more than ever!Stew2

This Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew is the most perfect fall meal. Despite being vegetarian, it’s packed full of hearty protein and fabulous flavor. The recipe makes about 8 servings, and since I’m only one person I got to enjoy it for 8 meals. You’d think I’d get tired of eating the same lunch and dinner for 4 days in a row, but not with this stew! I actually looked forward to eating it again and again and was sad when it was all gone. The combination of chickpeas, lentils, sweet vegetables, spicy jalapeño and warm curry spices is wonderful, and the longer you cook the stew the thicker it gets. It’s comfort in a bowl, I tell you!

Last Thursday my car battery decided to die, and after a long day of racing back and forth between Les Schwab and classes it felt awesome to walk into the door to a fragrant slow-cooker full of hot stew. Sometimes a good meal is all it takes to brighten up a hard day. Add this fantastic crock-pot meal to your dinner repertoire! It’s great any time of the year!Stew

Crock Pot Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew

Makes 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon garam masala (or curry powder)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 cup brown lentils

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

32 ounces vegetable broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cilantro, for serving (optional)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, carrot, and jalapeño for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Add in the garlic and sauté for another minute or so. Stir in the garam masala (and cayenne pepper, if you like spice).

Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Add in the butternut squash, lentils, diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and top with chopped cilantro if desired.

(Recipe adapted from Eat Live Run)

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Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette

IMG_4035Surprising as it may seem, I do actually make food other than dessert. Behind all the butter and sugar, I happen to follow a fairly healthy diet. Of course I taste everything I make (my motto is everything in moderation), but most of it ends up in the stomachs of my friends and family members. Unless of course it’s something like these healthy Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Balls which I may or may not hoard in secret tupperware containers in the way way back of the fridge. Strange as it is, I actually get more excited about stuff like this quinoa dish than I do about chocolate chip cookies. Who am I?!IMG_4037

Now, before you lose all trust in me as a baker/blogger and toss me to the curb as a pitiful soul who chooses quinoa over cookies, you’ve gotta try this recipe! Then you’ll see what I’m talking about. With quinoa as its base, this salad is loaded with sweet balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, crispy roasted chickpeas, creamy avocado chunks, and nutritious baby spinach. Then it’s all tossed in a fabulous lemon-tahini vinaigrette–the recipe makes extra, so you can use it to dress other salads as well! My favorite way to serve it is slightly warm, but it’s also delicious at room temperature or straight out of the fridge. My family loves to eat this salad as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but you can also serve it as a side. Or you can do what I did and eat it straight out of the tupperware as a late-night snack!

If you’re looking for a fast, easy, meatlessgluten-free, and delicious dinner recipe, you have to try this! It’s got so many good things going on that I can’t pick a favorite…the juicy, almost caramelized tomatoes? The hidden pieces of smooth avocado? The slightly-nutty, slightly-sweet lemony dressing? Call me crazy to choose leftover quinoa salad as dessert instead of a cookie, but I just couldn’t get enough! The cookies can wait.IMG_4047

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette.

Makes 6-8 servings

For the salad:

1 & 1/2 cups quinoa (uncooked)

1 pint (16 oz) cherry tomatoes

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper

1 avocado, diced

2 cups baby spinach

For the dressing:

1/4 cup tahini

3 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

1 teaspoon honey

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions. While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When the quinoa is finished, fluff with a fork and allow to cool as you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes and spread onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Add the chickpeas to the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the tomatoes are blistered and the chickpeas are golden and slightly crisp. Cool slightly.

To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a medium-small bowl. Place the cooked quinoa into a large serving bowl and add in the roasted tomatoes, chickpeas, and baby spinach. Pour on as much dressing as you like (the recipe makes about 1 cup and I like to use about 2/3 cup). Stir gently to coat, then carefully fold in the diced avocado. Serve warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

Baked Falafel with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

IMG_6874In the little practically microscopic town of my college, there’s a Middle Eastern restaurant that I like to eat at on special occasions. I’ve been there three times throughout this year, each time getting my fill of fresh hummus and pita, chicken shawarma with red rice, mini falafel balls, and the most amazing almond cake. On my tiny island we have a limited number of restaurants, and unfortunately no Greek/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisines are among them. Which is quite sad for all the stuffed-grape-leaf-and-tabbouli-deprived people here on the island, but it makes eating at this particular restaurant at college all the more exciting for me.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, and I’m hoping you won’t judge. Cause it’s kind of bad, as in it makes me seem like the laziest person ever. Which I’m totally not, if you happen to ignore all the hours I’ve clocked watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix in the past transitionary week between the end of school and the beginning of work. We’re talking zero laziness for this girl. Anyhow, I was gifted a food processor last Christmas (ummm, as in 2012), which I was super excited to get and had every intention of using at my earliest convenience, but…..but. It might possibly have stayed in its tight little plastic cover on the carpet of my closet for the past too-many months. And this might be for no good reason other than that I decided it was too much work to wash and put together and learn how to use with all its little slicing/dicing/careful-or-you’ll-cut-your-hand-off tricks. So it might have just sat there gathering dust and shame. But I’m neither confirming nor denying.

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The important part is that now my little food processor is happily out of the darkness and getting quite the workout. Earlier this week I made some energy bites out of dates, flaxseed, cocoa powder, peanuts, vanilla, and honey (which were an experiment, and aren’t quite worthy of posting on the blog–sorry!) and it played a major role in last night’s dinner. The theme was Greek, and the menu was miniature baked falafel balls wrapped in whole wheat pita bread with a lemon-tahini sauce and Greek salad on the side. These falafel balls are gluten-free, vegetarian, easy, and fairly quick. And most importantly, delicious. Just as good as a meal from my beloved restaurant, but a million times cheaper and substantially healthier since the falafel is baked rather than fried. The lemon-tahini sauce is the perfect accompaniment to the falafel balls, and when stuffed inside warm pita bread with fresh greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and feta, it was a regular feast.

Even though I’m kicking myself for not breaking out my food processor sooner, it’s better late than never! And if you don’t happen to be the proud owner of a food processor (or, you know, there’s one sitting in the floor of your closet because you’re a ridiculous lazy fool like myself), you could most likely make them anyway. Just be sure to mash up the chickpeas really well with a fork or potato masher, and use finely minced garlic, green onions, and cilantro. I can’t promise that the texture will be the same, but it’s worth a try! Because no one should miss out on these delicious little chickpea balls of goodness. No restaurant required!

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Baked Falafel 

Makes about 30 small balls, or 15 larger balls

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

4 scallions, roughly chopped

1 large egg

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/3 cup oat flour (or any other gluten-free flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add all ingredients except for the flour and baking powder. Pulse about 40-50 times or until ingredients are well-combined but still coarse. Add in half the flour, and pulse several times to incorporate. Add in the rest of the flour and the baking powder, and pulse until combined. If the mixture is too wet, add in more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is moist but still holds together well.

Scoop the mixture into balls about 1 tablespoon each. (Mine were quite small, so if you want more traditionally-sized falafel use 2-3 tablespoons per ball. You’ll just have to increase the baking time a bit.) Drop onto prepared cookie sheets and flatten slightly. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the outsides are crisp and golden-brown and the insides are soft but cooked through.

Lemon-Tahini Sauce

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over warm falafel balls.

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(Falafel recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats; sauce recipe adapted from My Name is Yeh)