Lentils, Spinach, Goat Cheese

I love Middle Eastern flavors. I could eat lentils for every meal, and often times I do.

In Detroit, we have some of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in the country — and I’m including New York in that statement. I’ve lived in New York for almost three years, and simply have not been able to find a single restaurant that comes close to my midwest Middle East.

Lately, Anita’s Kitchen (Ferndale, MI) is my favorite place to go when home because their portion sizes are more realistic and meant for one person (I don’t like being too full, and I don’t like taking home leftovers), and the food is a bit more eclectic. Their garlic sauce is not my favorite — I prefer it from Sultan’s in East Lansing, MI — but their Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Garlic dish is one of my favorites. Don’t even get me started on their eggplant salad. Noms.

For dinner tonight, I was craving Anita’s, but with a few states between us, I decided to make my own version of my favorite dish.

Start with a non-stick pan, and spray well with Olive Oil-flavored cooking spray or EVOO (1-2 tablespoons). Add half a medium white onion (sliced) and two cloves of garlic, finely minced.

Once the onion softens, add a 1/2 cup cooked beluga lentils, 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, and 1.5 cups spinach. I added steamed string beans to my recipe — about one cup.

Because the lentils were air-packed, and not freshly boiled, I didn’t add salt. For a peppery taste to balance the earthiness of the vegetables, I added 1/8 cup pepper-crusted goat cheese.

Delicious, filling, and healthy. Lentilicious.



Dinner for Breakfast

Par cooked brown rice.

Par cooked brown rice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t typically do leftovers. It’s not that I’m not a fan of cold pizza or Chinese food in the morning, but it’s that since being on this weight loss kick, I’ve been more careful about what I order when I order in, and that includes not ordering the above two cuisines – or at least not often – and ordering proper portions. The other night, though, I had dinner with a cousin, and we ordered Chinese (from Go Noodle on 1st Ave.). We had a mixed vegetable dish, as well as a tofu with eggplant, mushroom, and broccoli dish. And, because it’s silly not to, we ordered brown rice – in my opinion, one of the easiest way to healthify your takeout.

One of the things I love about my cousin is that she has a bizarrely bountiful supply of takeout brown rice stashed in her fridge. That, and an impressive collection of chopsticks and fortune cookies.

She sent me home with the leftover tofu and a small container of brown rice. While I had the tofu for lunch yesterday, I saved the brown rice for breakfast today.

I wish I had taken a picture, because my breakfast was de-licious, and relatively healthy. I took one medium non-stick pan, and sprayed it with a little cooking spray just to make sure the rice didn’t burn to the pan. I emptied the remaining brown rice (about 1 cup) to the pan over medium heat. To the rice, I added grape tomatoes, chopped orange pepper, and fresh baby spinach. For seasoning, I sprinkled in some fresh black pepper, garlic powder, and dried basil. In less than ten minutes, I had a nice brown rice breakfast, loaded with fresh vegetables. I topped it with some Brad’s Organic Fat-Free Tomato Sauce and a little bit of mozzarella. Weight Watchers-friendly, and wicked easy (yeah, I just said that).

People are crazy about breakfast for dinner . . . but what about dinner for breakfast? What’s your favorite way to re-purpose leftovers?

Beans on Toast 2.0

Broad beans, shelled and steamed

Image via Wikipedia

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to cut carbs out of my diet, mostly because my typical breakfast tends to revolve around a not-so American classic: beans on toast. Don’t judge me just yet. I’ve never gone so basic as to have the basic British variety: baked beans over toast. No, no. I’m a bit more wholesome, and opt for variations of the lentil or chickpea over something like a rustic whole wheat bread, or pumpernickel. Better yet? Olive bread.

Here are 4 variations on beans over toast that may spark your tastebuds:

1. Beluga lentils, baby spinach, goat cheese, and roasted garlic over pumpernickel – I love pumpernickel-flavored products. A good pumpernickel bread can be quite versatile, and is a staple in one of my favorite breakfast sandwiches. Roast three cloves of garlic in the oven (25-30 minutes at 400 degrees). Slice one wide piece of pumpernickel bread and toast for 30 seconds to one minute. Pull garlic out of the oven. Smash garlic and combine with goat cheese to make a spread. Spread the garlic/goat cheese mixture on your toasted slice of pumpernickel. Top with fresh, washed baby spinach and cooked beluga lentils. Wholesome, vegetarian, hearty.

2. Chickpeas over toasted pita – Sounds simple because it is. If you have a toaster oven and a stove top, you’re set. In a pan over medium heat (spray with cooking spray or use one teaspoon extra virgin olive oil), add 1/2 cup chickpeas (canned chickpeas are OK, so long as you rinse them well. I tend to buy organic or low-sodium), and cook until brown, but not crisp. Add paprika, za’atar, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Toast a Mediterranean pita in the toaster oven until golden.Β  Mash the chickpeas and spices into a lumpy mixture, and spread over toasted pita.

3. Smashed peas and fava beans with fresh mozzarella Here is a great recipe from The Cilantropist. For a fun variation, try using edamame instead.

4. Crostini Fava Beans Creme Fraiche This is a gourmet take on beans and toast, as it uses mushroom oil and creme fraiche, but it all pays off. Thanks to Local Lemons for the great recipe!

Hot Potato

Around 200 varieties of Peruvian potatoes were...

Image via Wikipedia

I have an interesting relationship with the potato. Some people form memories based solely on scent. I’m an eater. I remember people by what they cooked for me.

Growing up, our nanny Mary was a regular fixture in our day-to-day routines, and so when Mary passed away years ago, one food memory stood out most: Mary’s Baked Potatoes.

Mary was quirky. Besides fun field trips to the Redford Theater to watch old movies, Mary took care in making us after-school snacks. My favorite were her baked potatoes. Nothing fancy – but definitely hands-on – Mary baked small russet potatoes in the microwave until soft, cut them in half, and decorated them creatively with ketchup, mustard, and occasionally a small slice of cheese.

Not entirely nutritious, and certainly not gourmet, this small act of care made a strong impression on me, and after stumbling upon a recipe for twice baked potatoes, my spudsational memory was sparked, and I fondly remember the dear Mary Przybylski, or as I knew her, Mary Poppins.


Persepolis [Review]

Delicious. Delicious. Delicious. I’ve wanted to try Persepolis (not to be confused for the popular graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi) for quite some time, and was finally able to eat here for my Yom Kippur “start-the-fast” meal with my cousin. We met at the restaurant on a Friday night around 7, and it was relatively empty. I started with an appetizer of the borani – a yogurty delicious dip with garlic and spinach. They served the borani with an assortment of Persian breads, but I actually found it went best with my main dish, the Khoresht Gaimeh Badamjan — this savory rich stew complete with split peas, eggplant, tomatoes, served over rice. I opted for the polo baghali (basmati rice with dill and fava beans). The rice was really delicious and silky in texture, with a rich, almost buttery flavor. Its pairing with the borani and the khoresht gaimeh badamjan was a little taste of amazing.

The bill was just over $50 each, and we split it evenly. For just above $30 each, though, it was an excellent dining experience that I’d love to repeat.

Pauper’s Pantry: Pumpk it Up and Breakfast for Dinner

I have been beyond obsessed with pumpkin this fall. It’s one of my favorite seasonal flavors — only in competition with peppermint during the winter holiday season. Two of my favorite uses for pumpkin include pumpkin pudding and pumpkin spread. See below for pictures and recipe details, as well as a picture of my first-ever successfully flipped egg-in-a-basket (fried egg in a whole wheat bread slice).

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Office Cooking Part II: Using What You Have to Measure Portions

In an effort to save money and lose weight (again – shameless moment: have lost 26 pounds and counting!), I’ve been bringing ingredients to the office so that I can assemble healthy lunches and snacks that satisfy my cravings throughout the day.

Because I bring my food to the office as ingredients and not already assembled, I tend to keep some measuring tools handy so that portion control is in-check, but for those of you who don’t have an extra set of measuring cups/spoons, here are some great resources that show you how to practice portion control on the go (in order of my favorites):

Image Courtesy of NourishMoveThrive.ca

Image Courtesy of DietSystems.info

Image Courtesy of PhotoCalorie.com