hearty kale and lentil soup

Back in my college days I was a vegetarian. I mean, who wasn’t a vegetarian for at least a little while in college though, right?

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I grew up in a strictly meat and potatoes (and dessert every night) kind of family, so straying from that formula was definitely a learning experience. I was on my own for the first time and I wanted to express myself as the “independent” young adult that I was… or something like that.

I don’t know.
I was 18.
Who are you to judge me?

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I think that out of my whole family my grandmother had the hardest time wrapping her head around my new dietary choices. I mean, most of the family was sort of just like, “why?”, and rolled their eyes, but the first time I went home for Thanksgiving my poor grandmother was completely beside herself.

This was well before the bacon-ization of America and most of the sides at the table were totally vegetarian friendly, so I bellied up to the table and piled my plate high with squash and beans and potatoes and biscuits and corn and all sorts of amazing things. Grandma just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) accept that I was satisfied or full without having turkey and stuffing and gravy. She kept asking if I was okay and offering to go get me something else to eat.
Personally though, I was thrilled with all the different sides and it was one of the best meals I’d had in a long time. Grandma wasn’t buying it though.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Back at college I was doing my best to try new things, and was eating all sorts of thing that I was unfamiliar with up until that point.

Crispy fried bean curd (basically general tso’s tofu) was one of my new favorite things at the Chinese restaurant on Main St., and a vegetarian chili made with TVP or “texturized vegetable protein” at the neighborhood health food store was a lunchtime staple in my diet. I also ate a lot of BK Whoppers without the meat. No veggie burger, just a Whopper with no meat. Don’t knock it till you try it.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

One thing that I never quite got into though, was lentils.

Something about lentils just conjured images of dusty old hippies gnawing on sprouted mung beans in some commune somewhere. While I was actually really into Phish and the Grateful Dead, the lentils (and the mung beans) didn’t appeal to me.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

It wasn’t until much later, after meat found it’s way back into my life, that I tried lentils. My years as a vegetarian taught me a lot about how to make a tasty & filling meatless meal, and that I should always be open to trying new things.

There was a time shortly after I moved to Brooklyn when I was out of work for a little bit and a good friend found herself out of work at the same time. We decided to save money by cooking big cheap meals together that we could share and eat for a few days. We came across a recipe for a pureed french lentil soup, and given that lentils are like a buck a bag, we decided to go for it.

It was love at first bite and for years that was my go to lentil soup recipe.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Lately though, I’ve been wanting to try something different. Something new. I figured that I might add some diced tomatoes to the soup for a bit of brightness and acid, and throw in some lacinato kale for texture and color and to make the soup feel even healthier and more substantial.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

This is just the kind of thing I crave this time of year. A hearty, healthy, filling soup to warm my old bones on a cold winter night. Tender veggies, earthy al dente lentils, chewy dark green kale, bright acidic tomatoes, a bit of heat from the chili flakes, and fresh green parsley. Just perfect.

While this soup would probably fall under the “healthy” category, I promise that it doesn’t taste like health food. No dusty hippie communes here, just bright, delicious, hearty soup. And even though this soup is technically vegan, you won’t miss the meat at all. This soup is so thick and hearty it’s practically a stew!

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Hearty Kale and Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced onions (1 large onion)
1 cup sliced carrots (about 3 carrots)
1 cup sliced celery (about 3 to 4 stalks)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
one 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup dried green or brown lentils
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch Lacinato kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large heavy stockpot or dutch oven. Add onions, carrots, and celery, & season with salt and pepper. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté one minute more. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes to concentrate their flavor. Add lentils and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale and parsley and simmer 5 minutes more. Check that lentils are tender. Add vinegar, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and some nice crusty bread. A bit of parmesan cheese could be a nice touch too.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing

Even if you’re not a big sports buff, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that there’s a big sports ball game coming up this weekend.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

I don’t really follow sports ball, but talk of “the big game” is utterly unavoidable on the tv and in public conversations and small talk with customers at work. From what I’ve gathered, the Denver Cows are playing the Southern State Snow Leopards. Or something like that. I wasn’t really listening.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

I generally tune out when I hear any sports talk, especially this time of year. The only thing that ever catches my attention during sports ball season is the TV segments about game day food and recipes. Chips and dips and wings and all things deep fried and heart clogging and delicious. Pizzas and snackadiums and coolers full of beer. Oh yeah, and we can’t forget the guacamole.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

The other day someone on TV mentioned that over the past few years avocado consumption on game day has shot straight through the roof. This year they’re estimating that 53.5 million pounds of avocados will be purchased and pummeled into guacamole, and that the total amount of guacamole eaten that day would fill the stadium to almost 12 feet deep.

Now that’s what I call a snackadium!

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Even though I won’t actually be participating in any game day festivities, hearing about a 12 foot deep stadium full of guacamole definitely got my mouth watering and my wheels spinning.

Instead of just making a killer batch of guacamole though, I wanted to find a way to turn it into a filling healthy meal rather than a bowl of dip to serve with chips.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

It didn’t take me long to decide I’d be making a big beautiful dinner salad, but I really wasn’t sure what to call it. The most obvious name was, well, “guacamole salad”, but I was afraid that that name would conjure images of a scoop of guacamole plopped into the center of a bed of greens.

I considered calling it a deconstructed guacamole salad since it has all the traditional guacamole ingredients separated and recombined in a different way, but I was afraid that you’d see the word “deconstructed” in the title and roll your eyes so hard they’d get stuck, and then you wouldn’t be able to read all about this delicious salad.

So, guacamole salad it was.

Trust your gut. (Your gut wants guacamole.)

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’re not fond of arugula, this salad can basically be made with any greens you want. I like the pepperiness of arugula and think it pairs really well with everything else in this salad, but spinach or mixed greens or some nice crunchy romaine would work really well too. It’s totally up to you!

You could also leave out the grilled chicken if you want to keep things meat-free. I’d suggest that maybe you could add a full can of black beans (instead of the half can listed below) for extra protein, or maybe throw in some grilled mushrooms or zucchini for a meaty bite? You could even swap out the chicken for some thinly sliced steak or grilled shrimp if you’re into that kind of thing. Why not? Infinite possibilities. Whatever you like y’all!

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

This salad is simple, easy, filling, and perfectly delicious. Bursting with creamy buttery avocado and packed with all the fixins that go in to a traditional guacamole. Sweet cherry tomatoes, biting red onion, fresh green cilantro, even a handful of tortilla chips for crunch! It all comes together with a bright and citrusy jalapeño lime dressing that could not be easier to make, especially if you have an immersion blender.

All the flavor of the game day grub, without the food coma!

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Guacamole Salad with Jalapeño Lime Dressing

Jalapeño Lime Dressing:
zest and juice (about 1/4 cup) of 2 limes
1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad: 
3 to 4 generous cups arugula
2 ripe avocados, cut into large chunks
1 cup halved grape tomatoes, about 1/2 a pint
1/2 a small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 cup torn cilantro leaves, stems removed
1/2 to 1 cup tortilla chips, crunched up (but not crushed to dust)
1/2 a can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 chicken breasts, grilled and thinly sliced (optional)

Make the dressing:
Combine all dressing ingredients in a small measuring cup or wide mouth mason jar and puree with an immersion blender until creamy and smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender or food processor. Alternately you could just chop the jalapeño and garlic super finely by hand and shake to combine. Set aside.
Can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.

Assemble the salad:
Layer all remaining ingredients in a large serving or salad bowl. Once ready to toss, pour dressing over the top and toss toss toss to distribute all ingredients and evenly coat with dressing. Serve immediately.
If you want to assemble the salad ahead be sure to wait until the last minute to cut open the avocados or to add the tortilla chips or dressing.

dark chocolate chunk cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

I’m not sure if this is true where you live, but here in Brooklyn this has been the weirdest, craziest winter I’ve ever seen.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

To start with, up until very recently we’ve barely had anything even remotely close to an actual “winter”. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but on Christmas eve it was almost 70 degrees outside. On Christmas day we had to open all the windows in the house while I made dinner, but with the oven on all day we were still all overheated and sweaty by dinner time, even with the open windows.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts | Brooklyn Homemaker

After Christmas it was more of the same. Temperatures didn’t dip below freezing until well after the new year, but even then snow flakes were nowhere in sight. Having grown up and lived in New York State for my entire life, this is the latest and longest I’ve ever waited to see flakes of frozen water fall from the sky.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

Then, practically out of nowhere, we got dumped on.

A few days before it happened they mentioned the possibility of a blizzard on the news. As the day of the blizzard grew nearer, the predictions grew bleaker and more serious. They even named the storm the same way they name hurricanes. Winter storm Jonas. Since when do we name winter storms?
By the morning before Jonas came to town, they were practically predicting the end of the world, by snow and freezing and ice.

I’ve been around this block before though, this unpredictable New York State weather block, so I took the impending “snowpocalypse” with a grain of salt.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

Then it hit us. I checked the window just before bed last Friday night, and saw that a few flakes were just beginning to stick. I honestly expected that I’d wake the next morning to find an inch or so of accumulation, and turn on the news to hear apologies and oopsies from our local meteorologists. It’s happened before.

My alarm woke me early Saturday morning, and before I started to get ready for work I checked the window. I suppose I shouldn’t have been, but I was shocked to see that we already had about six inches on the ground, with plenty more on the way. Part of me thought it wouldn’t keep up though, and I had to go in to work anyway, so I went about my day. It wasn’t until I got to work, my beard covered in snow, that I started to realize it wasn’t letting up. It was getting worse. Some of my coworkers couldn’t even get in for the day because the trains couldn’t get through.

By noon the governor had issued a state of emergency and they were announcing bus closures and travel bans. Not long after that the police commissioner sent out a tweet saying that anyone found driving on the roads in NYC would be arrested. Staff at work, myself included, started to panic and since there weren’t many customers to speak of, we closed early and trudged our way home while we still could. Luckily the train line I live off of runs underground. There were delays, but it was still running. I walked home from the train down the middle of the street, since most sidewalks in my neighborhood hadn’t yet been shoveled.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

The next morning the clouds parted and the sun came out, but the sidewalks still weren’t shoveled, the intersections not clear to pedestrians, and the streets were barely plowed. I was practically snowed in, and with nothing to do and nowhere to go, I figured I may as well bake some cookies.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

I didn’t want to brave the streets so I dug through the cupboards and took inventory of what we had in the house. My mom gave me a big bag of shelled walnuts the last time I went to visit, and I had an extra bag of dried cherries leftover from my Christmas pork roast.  I didn’t have any chocolate chips in the house, but I did have a big ass bar of 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s. (incidentally, I’m not sure if you have a TJ’s near you, but I seriously can’t sing enough praises for the price and quality of their chocolate. I generally try to avoid specific product endorsements, but their “Pound Plus” bars are a dream come true to someone who loves chocolate almost as much as he loves to bake.)

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

In keeping with the extremely unusual and unpredictable nature of this winter, it’s less than a week since our “snowmageddon” and it’s melting away as quickly as it came. There will be nothing left but memories and instagram photos in a few days more.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

Whether you’re snowed in or just want a sweet treat, these cookies are THE BOMB!

The cookie itself is buttery, soft, chewy, delicately salty, and perfect in every way (Thanks Martha). Twice as much brown sugar as white ensures a tender chewy cookie that stays soft for days. Rather than the traditional chocolate chips though, this cookie is loaded with pockets of rich and melty bittersweet dark chocolate; studded with bits of chewy, sweet, tart, and jammy dried cherries; and peppered with just enough crunchy, toasty, nutty, earthy, ever-so-slightly-bitter walnuts to tie it all together. These three ingredients were seriously made for each other.

What are you still doing here? Go preheat that oven and take that butter out to soften!

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Dried Cherries and Walnuts

  • Servings: makes approximately 32 cookies, depending on scoop size
  • Print
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup chopped walnuts
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar (light would work fine too)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups dark chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup chopped dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer, and toast for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until they smell toasty and nutty. Cool and roughly chop.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars and beat on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well combined, for about 1 minute. Add flour, mix until just combined, then stir in the chocolate, cherries, and walnuts just until evenly distributed.

Scoop dough out using a portion scoop and place cookies about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I like big cookies so I used a #24 scoop, which works out to about 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie. You can make smaller cookies, and you’ll end up with more individual cookies, but you’ll need to reduce the baking time by a few minutes. Alternatively you can make larger cookies with a smaller yield, but you may need to extend the baking time by 2 or 3 minutes.

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, around 11 to 13 minutes for 3 tablespoon sized scoops. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week. 

beet and blood orange bundt cake #bundtbakers

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “New Year, new you” at some point in your life.

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Well, I’ve decided that I don’t need a new me. I’m as happy as a clam with the current me, so I’m tossing that pesky little phrase out the window.

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

What I could use in the new year though, is some new recipes. I really want to shake things up and learn some new tricks in the kitchen.

In my last #bundtbakers post I mentioned that I’d gotten an old cookbook from my mother and I wanted to try some new (to me) recipes from old cookbooks. Russell heard me loud and clear and found me some even older cookbooks on Ebay for Christmas, one of them dating back to 1884. Some of these recipes are so old, and so unfamiliar, that they actually feel completely fresh and new and innovative! I can’t wait to start cooking my way through them!

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Don’t get the wrong idea though. While I definitely want to revisit the recipes of the past, I also want to try a few things that are totally new and modern. New ways of doing things, new techniques tips and tricks, new spins on classic recipes, and new combinations of flavors.

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

As fate would have it, our very own June of How to Philosophize with Cake chose “Strange but good / weird flavor combinations” as our #bundtbakers theme this month. Can you think of a better segue into trying something new and exciting in the great big world of bundts?

I sure can’t!

I wasn’t the only one who got excited about this month’s super fun and interesting theme. 25 bloggers are participating this month and some of the ideas they came up with are truly mind-blowing. Please scroll down past the recipe to check out everyone’s cakes, but be warned, you might want to grab a towel to wipe up the drool while you read through their posts.

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

After some serious thought and option weighing I decided to try making a beet cake. I’ve always loved beets and have often thought that their earthy sweetness would work well in dessert. I’ve wanted to try experimenting with beets in sweets for a long while but until now haven’t had the drive to go for it.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thought beets worked well with this theme. While everyone’s cakes are totally different, there are a few others who used beets in their recipes too, and they all sound phenomenal.

I’m usually pretty good at being able to size up a recipe and know what changes I can make without screwing it up.
Unfortunately this was not one of those times. I had a one hell of a time getting this recipe right and had to make three cakes before I was happy with the results. My first plan incorporated ricotta along with the beet puree and orange juice, and while it tasted great there was too much added moisture and the texture was dense and gummy. The ricotta didn’t really add much in the flavor department either, so I nixed it. The next try was much closer to perfection but I knew I still had a little work to do before I could proudly and confidently share the recipe with all of y’all.

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

One thing I was sort of surprised and disappointed by was the way the bright red color of the beets baked out by the time the cake came out of the oven. For some reason the very top of the cake stayed red, but the interior turned a pale orange color. I tried a few things in my experimenting, and did some research online on how to preserve the color with acidic ingredients like orange juice, buttermilk, and baking powder (rather than baking soda which has a base PH). The bottom line though was that this cake needs to cook too long to be able to preserve the color, so making sure the cake is cooked all the way through means that you have to sacrifice that vivid red.

I thought about using food coloring to turn it red again, but that’s not really my style and it seemed unnecessary. The beets are there for flavor not color, and the flavor stays even after the color bakes out.

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Let me tell you, this cake has amazing flavor in spades. You may think that using beets in a cake is weird or unappetizing, but think again. It may sound a bit weird in theory, but it’s seriously freaking delicious. Even people who don’t care for beets will probably enjoy this bright and citrusy cake.

Thanks to the moisture from the buttermilk and beet puree, this cake is incredibly moist and tender, with a light and delicate crumb. The bright citrusy acidity of the blood orange pairs beautifully with the sweet, earthy, almost floral flavor of the beet. Ground cardamom bolsters the floral notes in the beets, and a bit of ground clove bridges the gap between the bright citrus and earthy beet. A sunny blood orange glaze adds even more citrus flavor and a naturally pretty in pink color that’s missing from the cake itself. To top it all off a sprinkle of freshly toasted pistachios adds crunch, color, and an earthy floral flavor that compliments the rest of the cake perfectly.

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Beet and Blood Orange Bundt Cake

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
zest of one blood orange
1/4 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
2 small to medium beets
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Orange glaze:
zest of one blood orange
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed blood orange juice
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

preheat oven to 350F.

Brush a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan with softened butter, dust with flour, and tap out excess. Refrigerate.

Combine orange zest and sugar in a large bowl and mix until well combined with an electric mixer. Set aside.

Wash and peel beets and cut into quarters. Place in a food processor with orange juice and puree until very smooth, about two to three minutes. Pour into a measuring cup and measure out exactly 1 cup of beet puree. Discard any extra if you have too much. If a little short you can top it off with a touch of extra buttermilk. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk to beet puree and stir well. Set aside.

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, cardamom, and cloves together in a medium sized bowl.

Add softened butter to orange scented sugar and cream together on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add oil, vanilla, and one egg at a time, beating just enough to incorporate. Alternate flour and beet mixtures, beginning and ending with flour, scraping sides of bowl between additions.

Transfer batter to prepared bundt pan, tap out any air in the pan. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 55 to 65 minutes, or just until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.

Cool on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes before inverting pan to remove cake onto the rack. Cool on the rack until completely cool.

To make the glaze, whisk orange zest, orange juice, and powdered sugar toghether until smooth and completely free of lumps. The glaze should seem very thick, almost spreadable. If too thick add a few drops of water or orange juice, if too thin add more powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Pour glaze over completely cooled cake, and before it dries, top with a sprinkle of pistachios.

Cake should keep, well sealed in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to 4 days.

beet and blood orange bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

There are so many incredibly interesting and mouthwatering cakes this month. I know I say this all the time, but I really wish I could try them all. Some of these combinations of flavor are simply unbelievable that I’ve got to try them for myself.

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BundtBakers

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#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest Board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.