lentil shepherd’s pie

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Andy and I are making the transition to a vegetarian diet, a lacto-ovarian vegetarian diet. So I made this recipe using cow’s milk instead of a non-dairy milk. I also lightened the salt by using just 2 tablespoons soy sauce. The pie came out hearty and filling, with just the right amount of seasoning. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie (adapted from Melanie McDonald)

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
2 ½ teaspoons dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, marjoram or mixed herbs or Italian herbs)
190 g or 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils, green or brown*
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
240 ml or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
240 ml or 1 cup mushroom broth or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1000 g or 6 cups diced raw potato
80 ml or 1/3 cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened
1-2 tablespoons vegan butter, optional

Preheat oven 400˚F/200˚C. Boil water in a large pot. Prepare a 9 inch deep-dish pie dish by spraying the inside with cooking spray. Set aside.

Put the diced potatoes in the pot of boiling water. Add a generous pinch of salt, cover and bring to the boil again. Simmer 15 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain then return to the pan. Add milk and butter if using, and mash very well. Set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, warm another pan over medium heat.

Sauté onions, garlic, and carrot until the onions start to go golden brown. You can use oil to sauté or a teaspoon or two of vegetable stock. Add the dried herbs and cooked and drained lentils. Make a slurry out of water and cornstarch, and add it to the pot. Stir well to distribute the cornstarch mixture. Add the tamari or soy sauce and tomatoes. Stir well.

Add the stock and stir well. As soon as the mixture is hot and is starting to bubble, remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the lentil mixture into the dish. Top with mashed potato. Spread the potato evenly on top, one spoonful at a time, and drag a fork through the top to create a pattern. Place dish on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. If additional browning is desired, put the dish under the broiler until the top is golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

*To cook lentils:
3 cups water
1 cup lentils
Using a large Dutch pot, bring lentils and water to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Yields 2-2 1/2 cups cooked lentils.

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no measure chocolate cake

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When it comes to baking cakes I am a fanatic. Every ingredient must be measured or weighed. But sometimes you want a quick cake, a cake that requires no fuss and bakes up in a heartbeat, so that you can sit down and enjoy it right away. I was tempted by this recipe on Food 52 and it was quirky; no measuring, just a yogurt container. I had to bite down hard to ignore my OCD to try it. After cooling, problems came up; the cake fell about 25%. However, the texture is moist and dense, quite like a brownie, and not as sweet.

No Measure Chocolate Cake

2 tablespoons butter and 1-1 1/2 tablespoons flour for prepping the pan
7 oz (200g) Greek style yogurt
1 container canola oil (I used rice bran oil)
1 container superfine sugar
2 large eggs
2 containers self-rising flour
1 container unsweetened cocoa powder
1 container coffee or warm water
pinch of salt
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven 350˚F/175˚C. Melt butter and add 1 tablespoon flour. The mixture should be thick but not dry so add a little more up to 1/2 tablespoon more. Brush on the inside and base of a 10″ springform pan. Line with bottom with parchment then brush some more butter mixture on the parchment. Set aside.

Baker’s Note: I used 3 5×3 inch pans filled halfway, and baked the cakes for 30 minutes.

Empty the yogurt container in a large mixing bowl. Using the yogurt container, measure the oil and add it to the yogurt, followed by the sugar. Add 2 eggs. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until smooth.

Add 2 containers-ful of flour and 1 container cocoa powder. Beat on low speed until no lumps remain. Slowly add the coffee or warm water. Add a pinch of salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Pour into prepared 10 inch pan and bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. Unmold and remove the paper. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top when cooled. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, crème fraîche, or ice cream.

ground pork curry noodles

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This is an easy weeknight dinner dish that cooks up in less than half an hour. I used to make it years ago for Andy and the kids, and I was reminded of it when we were at the Cheesecake House last weekend, and I ordered it for dinner. Its curry flavor can be mild or pungent, depending on how you like it, but the important thing is not to cook the lettuce but to heat it through at the last minute.

Ground Pork Curry Noodles

220 g organic dried rice noodles
2 teaspoons vegetable oil or rice bran oil
1 medium red onion, cut into thin rings
4 cloves garlic, minced
350 g lean ground pork
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
Nam pla (fish sauce) to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or to taste
1/2 tablespoon Knorr chicken soup powder
1/2 cup water
cornstarch, optional
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped

Boil a large pot of water and let it simmer.

In a large wok or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Cook the onion until it is wilted. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the meat and cook, stirring, until no longer pink. Mix in the curry powder, nam pla, and pepper to taste. Put in the soup powder and water. If desired, thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch mixed with water. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat and add the chopped lettuce, toss to combine.

Cook the noodles in the simmering water about 6-8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and toss with a little bit of oil so that the noodles don’t stick together.

Serve the ground pork sauce over the hot noodles. Eat at once.