Foodie Sipping Hot Chocolate

It’s that time of year In my neck of the woods, now and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine made from scratch (naturally). It’s easy to mix up a batch from a container of baking cocoa, sugar (or your choice of sweetener), and milk.

In the Midwest, we might still be having bonfires in our  back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

But try to think in a different vein.

If candy manufacturers can add a twist to their chocolate confections, why not do the same to your cup of hot chocolate? I like chocolate with raspberries or cherries and I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try giving your hot chocolate a little zip with one of these suggestions.

Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these adds that homespun flavor.

Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight. It reminds me of the chocolate “oranges” in the fancy Christmas packages.

Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh-brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.

Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold. Peppermint also calms an upset tummy.

Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter, take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix well until it melts. Chunky or ‘natural’ with the oil on top is probably not a good idea, right?

Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in. I like hot sauce, but admit this choice isn’t for the faint of heart.

Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that just-in-case jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. It tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.

Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of pure maple syrup livens up ordinary hot chocolate.

If you’re interested in making a single cup of cocoa for yourself, Epicurious has a recipe for that.

Make your own hot chocolate mix to have on hand whenever you want a cup. The Pioneer Woman has a recipe which is easy and makes a really creamy concoction you can share as gifts.

So, cozy up in your chair or in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

Foodies Talk About Food

I know how you are. I listen when I’m out with you. I overhear you doing it. I watch and see you doing it on social media. You all like to talk about food.

For example:

You show us where you’re eating right now. You take pictures of that great meal you cooked. You share recipes. Yes, indeed, we like to eat and talk about eating. Listen to these folks who are just like you and me. See what they have to say, whether in a light-hearted way or in all seriousness, about food, cooking and eating.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
― Orson Welles

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

“Wait. Why am I thinking about Krispy Kremes? We’re supposed to be exercising.”
― Meg Cabot, Big Boned

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
― A.A. Milne

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird

“Popcorn for breakfast! Why not? It’s a grain. It’s like, like, grits, but with high self-esteem.”
― James Patterson, The Angel Experiment

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”
– Erma Bombeck

“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”
― Sophia Loren

“My wife and I tried to breakfast together, but we had to stop, or our marriage would have been wrecked.”
― Winston S. Churchill

“I’m pretty sure that eating chocolate keeps wrinkles away because I have never seen a 10-year-old with a Hershey bar and crow’s feet.”
― Amy Neftzger

“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”
― James Beard

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

“Cakes are like books: There are new ones you want to read and old favorites you want to reread.”
― Ellen Rose

“I will not eat them in a house, I will not eat them with a mouse, I will not eat them in a box, I will not eat them with a fox, I will not eat them here or there, I will not eat them anywhere, I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am.”
― Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

 

Foodies For the Birds

Right now, in my neck of the woods, fall is coming. Autumn is my favorite season of the year and I’m blessed I get to experience four of them in the Midwest. Today, we’re veering from human food to food that’s literally “for the birds.”

Because I’ve lived in an apartment for so long (some place or another), I don’t always get to have things like patio furniture, lawn ornaments, or bird feeders. If I could, I’d definitely be feeding the birds from at least two feeders. My dad kept them and one of his favorite things to do while relaxing in his recliner was to watch the birds in their feeders outside the living room window.

Since we associate this season as one of bird migration, we should remember that some birds benefit from feeders all year long. Birds have a year-round need for reliable, steady food sources. They get the bulk of their food from natural sources, but knowing what food types you should feed during each of the four seasons enables you to help backyard birds stay alive and healthy all year.

Another school of thought is the opposite of whether to and what to feed birds during winter. People sometimes think it’s unnecessary to keep feeders in summer. They take the feeders down in the summer months because they think it should be easier for birds to find food then. According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are good reasons for not putting the feeder away during the warmer months. The bonus with that idea is you get to enjoy the birds all year long.

Plus, with the soaring summer temperatures, it’s easy for birds to become dehydrated so in addition to plenty of food, they need fresh, clean water. Placing a bird bath and cleaning it regularly provides a place for birds to cool off and get a quick drink during blistering summer days. Cleaning your bird bath regularly in summer helps to avoid the spread of illness and disease. And you wouldn’t want to bathe in or drink icky water, would you?

These are some birds I get to enjoy even during my Michigan winters. —–>

Here in the northern hemisphere,  autumn can be the best time to see a wide variety of birds at your feeders. Many birds migrate in the fall and feeders provide a welcome place to refuel their energy along the way. During this time, birds need foods high in fatty oils and calories to replenish themselves during their incredible marathon flights. Some of the best options are:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Nyjer® seed
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Nectar (Hummingbirds need to refuel as well)

These choices are also ideal for birds that do not migrate for winter. Establishing a reliable food source in the fall will ensure your backyard birds are kept fed in the rough winter months. They’ll return to places where they’re used to finding a regular food supply.

Since some birds remain in the same location year round, winter is one of the most pertinent times to feed the birds. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates, or when temperatures drop to freezing. These birds require high calorie and oil-rich foods to survive shorter, colder days. Winter birds benefit from foods such as:

  • Suet (especially good in winter, high fat content)
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Black oil sunflower seeds (contains twice as many calories as striped sunflower seeds)
  • White Proso Millet

Other ideas for feeding your feathered friends with stuff you have right in your kitchen are:

Baked eggshells They provide calcium, which can be essential for females during nesting season. It’s extremely important that you wash and bake the shells to kill any potential pathogens. After you bake them, crush them and add to the bird seed or just sprinkle them on the ground. They work well in a standard platform feeder.

Nuts If you have some roasted nuts past their prime, put them out and see which birds take a bite. Salted nuts are okay too but put them in a bag first and shake as much salt off as you can. Or clean them with a moist paper towel, then dry them in a flat pan. A little salt won’t hurt them, but too much isn’t good for birds. Don’t use whole nuts. Break them into pieces. This is crucial during summer because mother birds may feed them to their chicks with disastrous results. The idea is to aid the bird population, not harm it.

Roasted seeds Plenty of birds are seed eaters, so this one seems like a no-brainer. You might consider going beyond the commercial sunflower and safflower varieties. Keep the seeds from your fall pumpkins and squash and bake up a batch. Reserve a few for yourself and munch on seeds while you watch (out the window like my dad did) the birds enjoying a different kind of treat. Remember, your seeds can be salted, but add it to your portion after you’ve baked them. Northern cardinals (plentiful during a Michigan winter for me) and sparrows especially enjoy seeds.

If you’re new to feeding wild birds or even if you’re not, be aware of some common misunderstandings and mistakes we make when setting up feeders and keeping them stocked.

No matter how much you do, the simple act of feeding feathered friends in your backyard will make a monumental difference in the world around you. When you feed birds, you help more baby birds survive. Baby birds will then grow to adulthood and continue to strengthen the population. The improved and strengthened population of birds will eat more insects and help to keep those populations low, so you’ll need fewer chemicals to control them. Because you’re using fewer chemicals, the environment becomes healthier for you, your children, your pets, our water supply. And the wild birds.

Be a blessing to the birds today

Fun fact Saying that someone “eats like a bird” has a literal meaning and doesn’t apply to a human’s eating habits. (Probably) If we ate like a bird, we would consume five times our own weight in food each day. To keep them in flight, birds have a high metabolism rate. That’s why it seems they’re always feeding when you see them. They probably are because they’re trying to maintain their energy level.

 

Foodie Snacks at 100 Calories or Less

I can always make a long story longer, but the short of it is I don’t eat the way I used to.

That means I read food product labels; I don’t eat as much processed food; I cook from scratch even more than I used to; I log my food with an online app; and I eat ‘normal’ portion sizes. Most of the time, anyway.

Today’s post is about snacking. I still snack because I need to. Snacking is “doctor’s orders” and a strong suggestion from a dietician I see regularly.

You all know how much I like to cook, how much I like to try new flavors, and how much I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. My doctor isn’t into counting calories as much as making sure I stay with the necessary nutrients and portion size. Man, have I learned a lot about portion size.

This list is a sampling of my favorite snacks that are 100 calories or fewer. You can find such help all over the internet by doing searches. I use MyFitnessPal.

It’s Almost Apple Pie Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Miniature Tostada On a small corn tortilla, spread ¼ cup nonfat refried beans. Top it with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and a sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese.

Mediterranean Tomato Dice a medium tomato and top it with 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

Oh-So-Sweet-Potato This is not a sugary sweet potato; it’s sweet because of the lack of sugar. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get used to not eating sugar on food. Just bake a small sweet potato and sprinkle salt or cinnamon on it. If you want to, microwave it in a potato bag. Here’s an easy pattern for making your own bag. They come out great this way and it’s so quick.

Carrots With Hummus This is the old veggie dip idea but with protein instead of fat. Crunch on 9 or 10 2-inch carrot sticks dipped in hummus. Bonus points if you make your own hummus. Hey, it’s easy.

Santa Fe Black Beans Combine ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s a hearty snack with protein that won’t quit.

Greek Watermelon Can you tell I enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean? This one combines watermelon (1 cup) and 2 tablespoons feta cheese. Those seemingly incompatible flavors do work. (And I really like feta cheese.)

Turkey Tartine A fancy name for a foodie snack that’s a tasty open faced sandwich. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard on a slice of toasted whole grain bread and lay on 2 slices of deli turkey.

Carrot ‘Salad’ Mix two grated carrots with 1 tablespoon raisins, 1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds, and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.

Black Bean Salad This one’s not only lean, it has protein and fiber. Mix ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1 small chopped tomato, ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of chili powder.

Spiced Cottage Cheese Mix ¾ cup nonfat cottage cheese with a pinch of chili powder and a pinch of curry powder. A garnish of chopped scallions is nice.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad Mixing savory and sweet reminds me of those cooking shows on the food networks. So be a pro and mix 1 cup baby spinach with ½ cup sliced strawberries. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

Cottage Cheese With Melon For a twist on cottage cheese with fruit, combine ¾ cup diced cantaloupe with ¼ cup nonfat cottage cheese. If you’re craving sweetness, drizzle a little raw honey over it.

My tastes run to the spicy and savory so this baker’s dozen sampling reflects that. You know me: get creative in the kitchen. Life’s too short to eat boring food.

Eat hardy!

Foodie Eats Her Cereal

Yesterday, March 7, was National Cereal Day. Since I hail from Battle Creek, Michigan, the “Cereal Capital of the World,” it was only fitting to celebrate on social media. Hashtags and everything.

Foodies today are going to answer a couple questions for me. What’s your favorite cereal? (Hot, cold, homemade, weird, whatever.) What was your favorite when you were a kid?

We’ve long been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I admit to enjoying breakfast foods any time of day. Sometimes when I was young, on a Sunday evening after being busy all day and having fixed a big Sunday dinner, Mom would say about supper, “Just have a bowl of cereal.”

Reading the side panels of cereal boxes, I learned to sound out big words. I had no idea what riboflavin was, but I knew how to pronounce it.

I have plenty of recipes for homemade cereals (and other traditional breakfast foods), but you might want to try this granola recipe from All Recipes. If you’re partial to pancakes and waffles for breakfast, try this strawberry syrup.

Battle Creek’s history with cereal production is well-known here in the Mitten State. At one time, there was over 100 different cereal companies operating in our fair city. For trivia buffs, here’s some cool information about cereal manufacturing and how it all began.

Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant, began the cereal revolution in 1854 with a hand oats grinder in the back room of a small store in Akron, Ohio. His German Mills American Oatmeal Company was the nation’s first commercial oatmeal manufacturer. In 1877, Schumacher adopted the Quaker symbol, the first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal.

Granula, the first breakfast cereal, was invented in the United States in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson, operator of Our Home on the Hillside, which was later replaced by the Jackson Sanatorium in Dansville, New York. The cereal never became popular since it was inconvenient as the heavy bran nuggets needed soaking overnight before they were tender enough to eat.

The cereal industry rose from a combination of sincere religious beliefs and commercial interest in health foods. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg experimented with granola. He boiled some wheat, rolled it into thin films, and baked the resulting flakes in the oven; he acquired a patent in 1891. In 1895 he launched Cornflakes, which overnight captured a national market.

In 1906, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s brother, William K. Kellogg, after working for John, broke away, bought the corn flakes rights from his brother and set up the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. His signature on every package became the company trademark and assurance of quality.

Charles W. Post introduced Grape-nuts in 1898 and soon followed with Post Toasties.

Have a bowl of cereal for breakfast some time to celebrate a pantry staple that appears in one form or another all over the world. Eat hardy.

 

 

7 Foodie Family Traditions Ideas

Families have traditions. Even when the family hasn’t officially named their practice a “tradition,” you can tell by watching them, that’s exactly what it is.

One of the most common traditions if you celebrate birthdays is to have a little “party” by serving cake, often with candles. You include as many people as possible because you want everyone to know the significance of the day. “I’m glad you were born” is what birthday celebrations boil down to. What a nice tradition.

My dad with his birthday cake that sports a Batman figure supplied by my eight-year-old son, Rich.

Here are some traditions revolving around meal time you might want to try. They’re ideas for celebrating the people you love, enjoying, as Foodies, a meal prepared with love.

Have Favorite Meal Day For instance, if a child has a birthday on the tenth of the month, on the 10th of every month, that child picks the main dish. You could also do this for wedding anniversaries where the wife picks on even months and hubby picks on the odd months.

All the men in the family cook and clean up on Mother’s Day.

Since restaurants are the busiest they are all year on Mother’s Day, stay at home and cook for Mom. If you don’t already know how, learn to cook one of those dishes (or a dessert) that was a favorite of everyone’s when you were growing up.  Make place cards for everyone using ideas you can get from Pinterest or any where you can find craft ideas on the internet. Going the extra mile is one way to tell Mom how much you appreciate her.

One night a month the evening meal is designated as Finger Food Night.

On the first and last days of school, Mom or Dad prepares a special meal. You know what your kids like best. Let them know you’re proud and that you appreciate their individual tastes in food.

Upside Down Day is something you can do on weekends when you’re home. Serve dinner for breakfast, breakfast at dinner time and “midnight snacks” for lunch.

Celebrate ethnicity One day in the month, try a new recipe reflecting the culture of another country or ethnic group. Before you eat dessert, discuss some things you know about the culture from which the food may have originated or trivia about the country or group you selected. It’s a great way to connect and get a little bit of education.

And speaking of connecting, it’s good for us to remember how traditions almost always help families and friends celebrate each other and the relationships we’re engaged in. It’s hard to deny that meal time is often the only way we connect when life keeps us busy.

At your house, what traditions do you already participate in? If you live alone with no family around you, how can you begin a tradition with a friend or a group of friends? Is there an event that occurs regularly around which you can build a tradition? Where I live, the Super Bowl is coming up. Lots of families and friends who enjoy football–rivalries not withstanding–use the even to “celebrate.”

Celebrate one another and Eat Hardy.

Now, For 2019 Foodie Fun

Yep, we still insist, some of us, in making new year resolutions.

Did you make resolutions to create a “better” you for the new calendar year? It’s almost a joke anymore to resolve to lose weight or eat less or reduce time spent on social media. But, go ahead; I believe in you.

Me? I try to keep my resolutions realistic. Like “I resolve to drink unbelievable amounts of coffee every day and to eat chocolate at least three times a week.” I’m realistic and cowardly about admitting I break promises to myself.

Me? I make a list of things I’d like to accomplish during the year, being quite specific and applying those goals to each area of my life. But I almost never make a goal about food. Except for that one about how much I spend on groceries. *sigh*

Me? I like to eat. I enjoy cooking and baking. I can be found puttering in the kitchen when I’m anxious. I can be found puttering in the kitchen at all hours of the night. Chances are, if you called and I didn’t answer the phone, I was busy in the kitchen.

Eating, cooking, and baking were probably family events for you during the past holiday season. I can’t think of any November/December holidays that don’t involve food. After all, cooking and eating bring us together for a great time of fellowship.

I hope your holidays, whichever ones you celebrate(d), were some of the best you’ve ever had. And I hope you bring joy to your little world through a good meal, a tasty snack, a chewy cookie, or a quenching drink.

Now it’s about time I went to the kitchen to bake those pumpkin bars I promised my friend.

Eat hardy!

Cookies, Here We Come

Well, it’s that time of year when some of us are getting ready for the Christmas cookie exchanges. Now, this post may seem backward, but I’ll be talking about weeks-ahead preparation for baking your dozens of cookies. Next time, I’ll include some recipes for favorite Christmas (and any time of year) cookies.

Today Foodie has some tips on freezing cookie dough for baking in the future and freezing baked cookies so they’re handy any time. You may want to do a little research on which cookies/doughs aren’t good bets for freezing, but here’s some tips for those that freeze well.

What to have on hand

  • Plenty of gallon-sized zipper type freezer bags
  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Cookie sheets
  • Containers with covers (for bar-type cookies)

Place baked cookies on a silicone baking sheet or parchment-lined cookie sheet. (They can be placed close together since they’re already baked.) Freeze them for an hour (or until solid), then transfer to a freezer zip-top bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible before you put them in the freezer to prevent freezer burn.

For slice-and-bake cookies, shape the dough into one or two logs, use a layer of plastic wrap first to prevent freezer burn and odor absorption from your freezer. Then put into a zipper seal bag and freeze.

How Long To Freeze Them

With proper storage, most cookies can be kept in the freezer for up to three months. The best way to store cookies depends on the type of cookie you’re baking. For example, chewy bars should be stored in a single layer in a covered airtight container.

Thawing Tips

If you thaw baked cookies in the containers you stored them in while in the freezer, the condensation that forms while they thaw could linger on the cookies. Then they become soggy. Remove them from the freezer bag or airtight container when you defrost them so that condensation won’t form. It’s best to put baked cookies on a paper towel-lined plate to thaw them. Always thaw them at room temperature.

Baking Frozen Cookies

Balls of drop cookie dough can be baked directly from the freezer, while slice-and-bake and cut-out cookie dough needs to thaw out shortly on the counter so that they can be sliced or rolled out. Regardless, the doughs will be colder than they would be if they were baked fresh, so you should plan on adding a minute or two to the suggested baking time to make sure they get cooked through.

Have fun baking all those batches of cookies, sharing them with friends, and, most of all, eating them.

Pumpkin Head Foodie

Well, it really is pumpkin season.

And that odd phenomenon called Pumpkin Spice in coffee, ice cream, pudding, bacon, and just about anything you can imagine pumpkin flavor showing up in made its appearance on the scene right around the first of September (at least in my neck of the woods). However you feel about putting that particular flavor in stuff, the idea is here to stay.

I’m sort of a purist. So today I’m giving out a recipe for a pumpkin bread I like to bake. I also happen to use dried cranberries a lot. This is the season for cranberries too so you could maybe use this one for a holiday coming up. They’re coming up in my neck of the woods anyway.

Normally, I’d tell you that you can exchange out ingredients, because you know I do that a lot when I cook. But in the case of baking, I like to be fairly exact. The only thing I can suggest is cutting down on the sugar. Sometimes I do that because I don’t like stuff as sweet as the average Joe/Jill. Naturally, if you’re gluten intolerant, you know what to do.

I like it with the orange juice because it helps the cranberry flavor along.

Mini Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Makes 5 mini loaves

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1T. + 2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. orange juice or water
  • 1 c. dried cranberries

Combine flour, spice, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in small mixing bowl; beat until just blended. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon batter into 5 greased and floured 5 x 3 disposable foil loaf pans.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven  for 50-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool.

Eat Hardy!

 

Foodie is Stewing

I promised this recipe to friend who was curious. I made it earlier this week because I was in the mood for something substantial, but heart healthy. This turns out to be more of a stew than a soup because lentils soak up so much liquid and because the large veggies aren’t reminiscent of a thinner dish. I usually use brown lentils, but if you aren’t sure what kind you should use in a particular recipe, this might help.

I’m a cook who uses what’s on hand if it works.  I also make substitutions all the time to go along with my own taste and health needs. This stew can easily translate if you want it to. This is the basic recipe; you’ll find some alternative additions/substitutions at the end of the post.

Use your imagination. It’s your kitchen!

Tugboat Lentil Stew

  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 c. sliced carrots
  • 1 c. sliced celery
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. sliced chicken sausage (or 1/2 c. shredded chicken)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. hot sauce (if desired)
  • Lemon slices for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar

Rinse and pick over lentils for stones. In a Dutch oven, heat oil till hot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes or till onion is translucent and vegetables are tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, vegetable broth, bay leaves and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes or till vegetables are slightly soft. Add chicken sausage and pepper. Cover and let cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Add salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and a dash of red wine vinegar. Serves 8-10.

Meat: I have never used chicken sausage because I can’t find it. I have used ground turkey because I like cooking with it and it’s less fatty. When I use ground turkey in this recipe, I cook it until done in a frying pan with the olive oil first and add some ground fennel. Fennel will give a sausage-like flavor. Experiment with it for your own taste.

Veggies: I’m not a fan of celery so I’ve never used it in Tugboat Lentil Stew. Sometimes, if I have them, I’ll throw in 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetable instead. Or one cup each of frozen carrots and green beans (or peas). I always use onion because what’s a stew without it?

Liquid: I like the flavor we get using tomatoes. But if I don’t have tomato sauce, I almost always have a can of petite diced tomatoes around. A large can is okay because I’ve found that those lentils really soak up the liquid. In fact, I use more broth too. I add it as needed as the stew cooks. Unsalted chicken broth is my favorite because there’s so much sodium in the other types.

Spices/Herbs and Garnish: Bay leaves are a must. It’s a stew, after all. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out. No sea salt? Use whatever kind you have. Remember that with sea salt, you don’t need as much for flavor. I don’t garnish mine. I usually want my stew right away and I’m not so fancy I need that. Although the vinegar sounds good for a little kick. Speaking of “kick,” I’m all for just a pinch of red pepper too. You can add that to the pan when you pour in the liquids.

Enjoy your stew. Would love to hear your comments and if you’re one of those “by guess and by golly” cooks like me.