Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach and a *Giveaway*!

Ah, resolutions.  They are so easy to make and so hard to keep.  There are the annual New Year’s Resolutions we all make and break.  There’s the inevitable swimsuit season countdown.  And there are the (in some cases daily) promises that this will be the LAST TIME I gorge on Oreo cookies for dessert after my greasy grilled cheese dinner.  Obviously I say none of this from experience.  Obviously.

Regardless of what your health/fitness goals are, it’s hard to make changes last.  Whether it’s cutting down on soda or quitting smoking, it’s always easier to make resolutions than to keep them.   And long-term habits are what ultimately create health or illness.  Which is why I’m sharing a GIVEAWAY today from the health and fitness app/website Slimkicker.  SlimKicker is a website/app that turns your health and diet challenges into a game by giving you the tools to track your progress, reward yourself, and even compete with friends.

To win the giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post with a fun and creative health, diet, or fitness challenge.  Slimkicker will pick will pick their favorite entry, add it as a challenge to their site, and give you an Ozeri Professional Kitchen Scale.  I’m seriously jealous of excited for whoever wins this.  (This giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.)

source

I will be accepting entries until July 31st and then we’ll be contacting the winner.

I was thinking about what kind of challenge I would create for myself and decided it would definitely be to cook dinner at home more often.  For someone who writes a cooking blog, I do a poor job of feeding myself and my loved ones at the end of a busy day.  Even the simplest dinners cooked at home would save me tons of money and would be much healthier than take-out or (ahem) bar food.  So in honor of today’s giveaway, I’m sharing these Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach.  Fast, healthy, and affordable.  I guess there’s nothing too challenging about that!

Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach
serves 2
from Not Without Salt

Note: You can find harissa paste in many well-stocked grocery stores or online.

Ingredients
– 1 Tbsp butter
– 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
– 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (= 15oz can)
– 1 tsp harissa paste (add more for more spice)
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
– 2 cups fresh baby spinach
– generous scoop plain greek yogurt

1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté about 2 minutes, until softened.  Add harissa paste and allow to cook 2 minutes more.

2. Add chickpeas and sauté until warm and softened, about 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and stir in mint, spinach, and olive oil.

3. Allow the residual heat to soften the spinach and divide into 2 bowls.  Top each bowl with a scoop of greek yogurt and serve with a slice of crusty bread, if you like.

* I shared this post with this week’s Fresh Bites Friday and Fight Back Friday.

Goodness Green-ness Soup (Vegan)

I’m not sure I would have tried this soup if I hadn’t heard its author raving about it on The Splendid Table last week.  I found the recipe online and became convinced that I should make it after I saw the healthy and inexpensive list of ingredients.  I’m so glad I did!  The taste of caramelized onion and lemon really stands out and the little bit of rice gives it a smooth, creamy texture.  I stored half the batch in the freezer and am looking forward to pulling it out as I enter another hectic week of school!

Goodness Green-ness Soup
makes 8 servings
adapted from Anna Thomas’ recipe

Ingredients
– 2 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 large onions, chopped
– 1 tsp salt, divided
– 2 Tbs, plus 3 cups water, divided
– 1/4 cup arborio rice
– 1 bunch chard, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
– 1/2 lb spinach
– 4 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade leek broth)
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– juice of 1 lemon

1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stockpot.  Add onions and 1/4 tsp salt and cook until onions are beginning to brown, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add 2 Tbsp water, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover pot.  Allow to cook until caramelized, about an hour, stirring occasionally.

2.  Meanwhile, in a separate pot, combine rice with remaining 3 cups water and 3/4 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover the pot, and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.  Stir in the chard greens and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Strain remaining water out of rice and chard.

3.  Add the rice and chard to the caramelized onions, along with broth, cayenne and spinach.  Simmer just until spinach has wilted enough to be covered by the broth.

4. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.  Stir in lemon juice.  Serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

* I added this post to Sunday Night Soup Night, Weekend Gourmet Blog Carnival and Real Food 101.

Green Dreamsicle Smoothie

After a month-long(!) break, I finally headed back to classes this morning.  Slowly, I’m remembering what it’s like to have to get up before 10am, that a “reading list” means more than just the novels and cookbooks I’m requesting from the library, and the general anxiety that comes with projects, tests, and grades.  Not that I’m complaining.  Over the last month, I’ve realized that I can actually be a very lazy person when there are no outside motivators to get me up and out in the world.  I don’t want to be a lazy person.  And from the looks of my course syllabi, that will not be a problem for me this semester.

This calls for a green smoothie.  It’s a green Dreamsicle smoothie that I hope you will love as much as I do.  I had it for breakfast this morning and went to class feeling satisfied and energized.  If you haven’t ever added greens to your smoothie, I highly recommend that you give it a try.  For novices, spinach is a good place to start.  It blends up nicely, leaving no “crunchy” bits and it doesn’t have much of a taste to it.  As you get bolder, you can experiment with the cruciferous greens like kale and collard greens.  These veggies have wonderful health benefits but are also more likely to add a distinctive “green” taste to your concoction.  I don’t usually mind it but can see that it could be off-putting for a newbie.

Green Power!

Same smoothie without the spinach.

Enjoy!

Green Dreamsicle Smoothie
serves 1

Ingredients
– 1 tangelo, peeled and seeded
– 1/2 banana
– a few handfuls spinach
– 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
– about 1/4 cup hemp (or other) milk (hemp milk recipe here)
– 1/2 tsp vanilla

Blend all ingredients in a high-power blender.  Some blenders may not be up to the task of liquefying a whole tangelo, in which case you may want to experiment with OJ instead.  In that case, leave out the milk and consider adding more greek yogurt and/or banana to thicken.

* I added this post to this week’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, and Fat Tuesday.

Spinach Ohitashi and Sushi Night

Near the very beginning of our relationship, Jeremy and I discovered a mutual love for sushi.  And then we discovered a mutual love for good sushi, which usually translates into expensive sushi.  Lately, I’ve been looking for ways to trim our dining-out expenses and sushi seemed like the perfect place to start.  A new shop has opened near our apartment that focuses on sustainable seafood, grass-fed meats, and local eggs and dairy (oh, Portland, I love it when you live up to your stereotypes).  The owner is extremely knowledgeable about all of his products and he carries a good selection of sushi-grade fish along with frozen seaweed salad and octopus salad.  I think that sushi night at home is going to become a tradition.

Please excuse the poor-quality photo.  We had our chopsticks poised and ready to go when I remembered that I wanted to take a quick picture.  🙂

This is also a meal that allows us to cook together.  Our kitchen is so small that there really is no way to get two people in there at once.  With sushi night, I’ve been taking over all the make-ahead meal components and Jeremy has been artfully composing the nigiri once we are ready to eat.  I think I’m going to use some of my winter break to learn more about Japanese cuisine that I can cook at home.  Stay tuned for more on that!

My first venture outside the realm of  sushi rice was when I made Spinach Ohitashi last week.  The recipe was fast and simple and the ingredients were already in my pantry.  Cooking a new type of cuisine can be intimidating and so it felt nice to start small.  The simplicity of this dish made me feel that I could tackle it without any mishaps and the simple, healthy flavors were a wonderful complement to the tasty sushi we enjoyed.

Dan likes sushi night, too.

Spinach Ohitashi
serves 2

Ingredients
– 4 cups spinach, rinsed
– 2 tsp soy sauce
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

1.  In a large pot, bring plenty of salted water to a boil.  Add all the spinach at once and cook until tender, 2-3 minutes.

2.  Drain spinach and quickly submerge in ice cold water to shock it.  Remove from water and carefully squeeze out excess water.  It may take several minutes of squeezing to get out most of the water.

3.  With a fork or your fingers, separate the spinach a bit so it is not too compact.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil and mix.

4.  Transfer spinach to serving bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

*This recipe is included in Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Freaky Friday at Real Food Freaks, and Fresh Bites Friday and Real Food, Whole Health.

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

With my Thanksgiving break drawing to a close, I decided that I needed to use my last free day to make a big pot of soup.  Since we didn’t have Thanksgiving at our place, I don’t have any leftovers from the feast.  And since this is my last week of class before finals, I know I’m going to be quite busy with non-culinary projects starting…about…now.  I decided that some healthy and hearty lentil soup would be just the thing to take for lunches for the next few days, especially given the cold and rainy weather we’ve got coming up.

This recipe comes from Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks.  I have loved every recipe of hers that I have ever made and this is no exception.  The pictures on her blog and in her cookbooks make me want to go live in her world for a while, which I do by making her food.  I used a little less lemon than she did, but feel free to experiment and see how lemony you want your soup to be.  I highly recommend adding the spinach but have to say I’ll probably be skipping that step with my leftover soup for ease of lunch-packing.  Stay warm, everyone!

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
from Heidi’s at 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients:
2 cups / 14 oz / 400 g split red lentils, picked over and rinsed well
1 tablespoon turmeric
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
fine grain sea salt
1 large onion / ~ 2 cups, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of three lemons, or to taste
1 large bunch of spinach leaves, chopped

plenty of cooked (warm) brown rice, to serve
plenty of plain Greek yogurt, to serve

Put the lentils in a pot with 7 cups / 1.6 l water, the turmeric, 1 tablespoon of the butter, and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft and falling apart – twenty minutes or so. Puree with a hand blender. Add more water until the soup is the consistency you like, then taste and add more salt if needed. Keep the soup warm/hot.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the onion. In a skillet over low heat cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter along with the cumin and mustard seeds, stirring occasionally. When the onions have softened, roughly 10 or 15 minutes, add the cilantro and cook for a few seconds before removing from the heat. Add the onion mixture to the soup, then add the juice of the lemons, one lemon at a time – until the soup has a nice bit of tang. Also, add more salt to taste at this point if needed.

Just before serving, add the last of the butter to the skillet, when hot add the spinach and a good pinch of salt. Stir well, and cook just long enough for the spinach to collapse.

Serve by placing a scoop of rice in each bowl, then soup, spinach, and a dollop of yogurt.

Serves 6.

I submitted this post to this week’s “Real Food Wednesday“.