Southwestern Lentil Chili

I think every foodie has a penchant for something naughty- some low-rent processed salt or sugar bomb that in a weak moment you might put in your grocery cart and then squirrel away under under a big head of romaine lettuce. For me, this guilty pleasure is Hormel Chili.

Oh gelatinous canned meat ambrosia! When I was a kid I’d have Hormel Chili slathered over Japanese white rice with onions, cheddar cheese, and saltine crackers crunched on top.

Stop judging me. It’s heaven, you don’t even know.

Then, in 1994 Hormel chili and I were separated by good sense when the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act went into effect and my mom, aghast, went through our canned goods. There were many casualties in my childhood staples that fateful day (I miss you, too, Sapporo Ichiban!), but none stung my parents and I more than Hormel Chili. We switched to Hormel’s 97% Fat Free Turkey Chili. My father and I whined about it for five years.

Nowadays I scratch my chili itch by making Southwestern Lentil Chili (I know. More lentils. It’s like I want you to have gas). This stew is so darn packed with veggies and protein, and so darn filling! And it’s thick- you can stick a spoon straight up in it. This makes a big pot and then I portion it out and freeze it when I need a quick lunch or dinner. I used turkey sausage, but you could use any kind of seasoned ground meat.

Makes 10 Huge Hearty Servings- Serving Size: 2 Cup!

  • 1 Large Onion
  • 4 Medium Carrots- Diced
  • 2 Stalks Celery, Diced
  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 2 Russet Potatoes, Peeled and Diced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3 Pasilla Chiles, Roasted, skinned, and diced or a 12 Oz Can of Ortega Chiles
  • 1 Lb Lentils, picked-over and rinsed
  • 1 TBsp Olive Oil
  • 60 Oz. Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Lb Hot Turkey Sausage, cooked through
  • 15 Oz. Tomato Sauce
  • 6 oz Tomato Paste
  • 3 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • Hot Sauce (optional)
  • Cilantro for garnish.

1.) Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes, then add celery and carrots. Saute for another 2-5 minutes longer.

2.) Add the potatoes, red bell pepper, garlic, lentils, chicken or vegetable broth, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Stir to combine.

3.) Add the seasoning: Chili Powder, Cumin, Bay leaf, salt, and pepper and let simmer gently uncovered until lentils are cooked through- about 45 minutes to an hour. Keep stirring occasionally to keep lentils from burning on the bottom.

4.) Add the cooked turkey sausage (or any cooked meat) to the cooked chili, stir to incorpoate. Now’s the time to turn up the heat if you want to. Add cayenne pepper a little at a time until you have the kick you want, or just garnish with your hot sauce and some cilantro. Done!

For a big serving of 2 Cups:

Calories: 275  – Fat : 3 grams –  Carbs: 48 grams – Fiber:19 grams – Protein: 30 grams

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Minty Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

The world's leading lentil producer? Canada. Yeah, Canada.

The world’s leading lentil producer? Canada. Yeah, Canada.

The first time I had lentils was in college when a good friend of mine, Bonnie, made them while we were vacationing on a shoestring. She made an amazing soup and I was hooked. They’re tasty, cheap, filling, and good for you. Full of protein and fiber with zero fat. A no-brainer, right?

But, as I found when I gorged myself on several bowls of my own lentil stew, there are consequences to lentil love. Once you eat them the lentils and all their fiber put up a fight. And folks, things can get gassy. Really gassy (Though I maintain that nothing tops the amount of methane produced from eating two FiberOne bars in one day).

But eat lentils anyway- it’s a good life decision! Strategies I’ve incorporated into my lentil consumption include:

  • 1. Eating them for lunch only so by the time I’m paying the consequences I’m by myself with nobody to offend.
  • 2. Eating them and chasing them with probiotic yogurt.
  • 3. Eating them and standing downwind.

The first step in all of these is eating them, and for that you could try this minty lentil salad.

For the Dressing:

  • 1 TBsp Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 TBsp Vinegar (I like cider or white wine vinegar)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

For the Salad:

  • 1 package pre-cooked lentils (Or cook 1 Cup of dry lentils from scratch)
  • 1/2 C fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 C parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 C raw spinach (It wilts into the salad)
  • 1 C cherry tomatoes
  • 2 oz goat cheese, very cold and crumbled
  • 1/2 C pitted olives, chopped (optional)

1.)  Separate the pre-cooked lentils  (they tend to be vacuum-packed into a big clump, crumble them so they’re all separated). Add the olives, mint, parsley, tomatoes, and spinach.

2.)  For the dressing, whisk the wine vinegar with the shallot and garlic. Add the sugar, salt, and pepper, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

3.)  Toss the dressing into the salad and mix well. Add the crumbled goat cheese on top (but don’t toss in- it makes the salad look milky and weird) and refrigerate for an hour. Try adding red pepper flakes and siracha and making it spicy! Serves 4

Calories: 135  – Fat : 9 grams –  Carbs: 10 grams – Fiber: 4.3 grams – Protein: 7.5 grams

Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Cilantro Pesto

Yummmmm. It looks and tastes too good to be healthy. Beware of midnight munching on this…

I’ve found that as long as I manage the oil used, I can save a lot of calories by consuming Asian noodle dishes versus Italian because they tend to include a lot of vegetables and never call for butter and cheese. And let’s face it, Italian pastas taste better with butter and cheese.

My father is Japanese, and my mother is a German hailing from the Midwest. Only as an adult do I really have an appreciation for the many dishes my mother learned to cook to suit my dad’s Japanese tastes. This recipe was inspired by a dish my Mom used to cook for New Years. You can make this a day ahead as a wonderful side-dish or you can add chicken and make it the main event. As a side dish, this easily serves 6. The leftovers are almost better than eating it fresh!

For the salad:

  • One 9 oz package of buckwheat soba noodles (or 3 little “bundles”)
  • 3 medium bell peppers sliced thin, it’s prettier if they’re different colors
  • 8 oz fresh sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar

For the Cilantro Pesto:

  • 1 1/2 bunches cilantro
  • 3 scallions
  • 3 Serrano chiles
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 TBsp rice vinegar
  • 1 TBsp honey
  • 1 TBsp peanut butter
  • 2 TBsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 TBsp water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (NOT table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

1.) Start with the Pesto: If you want this dish mild, de-seed and de-vein all three Serrano chiles, the more seeds the hotter it gets. Roughly chop the chiles, scallions, cilantro, and garlic. Place in food processor with vinegar, honey, peanut butter, sesame oil, water, salt, and pepper. Blend thoroughly and check for taste.

Just dump everything into a processor, push a button, then feel like you accomplished a lot today!

2.) For the salad: In a large bowl, add the thinly sliced onion with the 1 tsp rice vinegar and toss to coat. After 5 minutes add the sliced bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and chopped cilantro. Boil water in a large pot and prepare soba noodles according to instructions (It usually takes less than 5 minutes for al dente). Do not overcook buckwheat noodles- they quickly turn gummy and fragile. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Drain again and add to the bowl with all the veggies.

3.) With everything in the large bowl, immediately top the noodles with the cilantro pesto and gently toss until all of the noodles and vegetables are evenly coated.

Calories: 272  – Fat : 7.4 grams –  Carbs: 44 – Fiber: 5.2 grams – Protein: 9.2 grams

Summer Sauteed Corn

Fresh Farmer's Market Corn with Herbs. Golden Goodness!

I crave having some kind of starch with dinner. As I’m lightening up my favorite recipes, a big challenge is finding a starch that isn’t calorie-laden, or riddled with butter, oil, and cheese. In the summer time I reach for corn. Corn is delicious in the summertime; sweet and juicy, and so filling! It’s a guilt-free grain and packed with fiber (It even has protein!).

For a quick side dish I saute fresh corn with fresh herbs. I like to save myself the messy step of boiling whole ears by just cutting the kernels off the cob while fresh. Apple cider vinegar adds a nice little zing and compliments the sweetness of summer corn.

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1/4 C  minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp butter (optional)

1.) Cut the kernels off the cob using a very sharp knife. I like holding the cob upright in a bowl, since the kernels like to roll off onto the floor. Heat a medium saute pan over medium low heat. Add olive oil and onion and saute until onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes.

2.) Add water, apple cider vinegar, corn, salt, and pepper. Stir corn occasionally to keep kernels from browning. Keep over medium low heat just until the kernels cook through and the liquid evaporates, about 8-10 minutes.

3.) Take corn off heat, add fresh herbs. If you would like butter (and who wouldn’t?!) you can add that here as well, but honestly you won’t miss it if you don’t.

Serves 4

Calories: 75  – Fat : 3 grams –  Carbs: 30 – Fiber: 2.5 grams – Protein: 2.5 grams

(Nutritional info without Butter)