weeknight meal

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 things 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.

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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.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs

Why hello there old friend! Long time no see!

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Being a food blogger and working full time for a kitchenware retailer basically means that from November to January I’m a busy little bee. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s coming one right after the other, I don’t have a second to even pick my nose for two whole months.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

This holiday season officially kicked my over-padded butt, so with the coming of the new year and the official end of the holiday season, I decided to take a brief but much needed and well deserved break.

I hope you were able to find some way to manage in my absence.
You knew I’d be back eventually, didn’t you?

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Here we are mid-January now, and things are finally feeling like they’re back to normal. In more ways than one…

Up until very recently, this “winter” has been unseasonably (and disconcertingly) warm here in Brooklyn. The day that Russell and I bought our baby little Christmas tree we passed blooming cherry trees as we carried it home. We had the windows open to enjoy the warm weather on Christmas day, but once I put the pork roast into the oven we were all fanning ourselves and dripping sweat. On New Year’s eve the begonias and impatiens in my back yard, and the rose bushes planted in front of work, were all blooming big and bright in stark contrast to the brown bare branches of Brooklyn’s trees.

Winter weather has finally caught up with us though, and the backyard is finally looking as brown and barren as it’s supposed to this time of year. Temperatures have finally begun dipping below freezing, and a few days ago winter winds knocked over the grill in my backyard as if to say, “Take that warm weather!” I even heard on the news this morning that we may soon see our first snow flakes in the next day or two.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

With Winter’s frigid temperatures finally catching up to us, I’ve had a hankering for some rich and satisfying comfort food.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chicken thighs are one of my ultimate favorite comfort foods. I’ve made lots and lots and LOTS of chicken thigh recipes over the years, and for good reason. They’re rich and flavorful and satisfying. They have way more flavor than chicken breast, and unlike breasts, thighs are almost impossible to overcook to the point where they dry out. As if that ain’t enough, they’re also significantly more affordable than breast meat.

While I’ve roasted ’em, seared ’em, and even grilled ’em, my favorite thing to do with chicken thighs is to braise them.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Normally I like to go for classic flavors like white wine and chicken stock, but this sudden onset of cold weather had me craving something more tropical. After a bit of thought I decided to try braising my beloved chicken things in bright Southeast Asian flavors like coconut, lime, ginger, and chili sauce.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was craving something rich and hearty and satisfying, and this chicken does not disappoint.

The coconut milk adds a perfect creaminess without feeling heavy, and the acid of the lime brightens things up and cuts through the richness of the chicken. The fresh ginger, garlic, & sriracha add a gentle heat and a depth of flavor, which is perfectly complimented by the umami saltiness of a bit of soy sauce. After simmering for almost an hour, another squeeze of fresh lime and a heavy handed sprinkle of cilantro and green onion add a summery freshness that’s more than welcome in these chilly winter months.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Coconut Lime Braised Chicken Thighs

  • Servings: 4 to 8, depending on size of thighs
  • Print
3 to 4 lbs (about 6 to 8) chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 small onion, finely diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed or very finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (or 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce)
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
zest and juice of 2 limes, separately
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped or torn
1 small bunch green onion, thinly sliced

Season the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper. Let the chicken absorb the seasoning at room temperature for about 30 minutes before proceeding.

Heat coconut oil in a large lidded skillet, braising pan or dutch oven over high heat. Brown for about 5 minutes on both sides, starting with the skin side down first. Depending on the size of your thighs the chicken thighs, you may need to do this in two batches. Remove and transfer to a plate.

A lot of fat will likely render out of the skin, pour all but 1 tablespoon out of the pan. Reduce heat to medium and sauté onions for about three to five minutes, or until soft and translucent but not brown. Stir in garlic, ginger, and Sriracha and sauté for one minute more. Stir in chicken stock, turn heat back up to high, and reduce by at least half, for about five to ten minutes. Stir in soy sauce, coconut milk and zest and juice of one of the limes. Arrange chicken thighs, skin side up, in a single layer. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for half an hour. Remove lid and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes more.

Stir in cilantro, green onion, and zest and juice of remaining lime. Serve over a bed of white rice or rice noodles, with a ladle of sauce and sprinkle of more fresh cilantro and green onion if desired.

homemade taco seasoning

Why hello there! Longy time no seeum!

homemade taco seasoning | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s been a minute, I know. Sorry about that.

I went upstate for a little vacation with my sister and her kids, and as much as I wanted to, I didn’t have time to get a backup post together to share while I was away. We went to a Bluegrass festival in the Catskills for 5 glorious days, and while I missed you guys, I loved every second of it.

Amazing music and friendly strangers. Boiling hot days and freezing cold nights. Spending time with family. Getting drunk on whiskey and wine and dancing barefoot until the wee hours of the night. Going to sleep on a firmly inflated mattress and waking up on a rock. Drying blankets in the sun after accidentally leaving the tent windows open during a thunderstorm. Lifting my niece up over a sea of tents to see the rainbow after the storm. Doing my duty in a porta potty or at the grocery store bathroom…

Absolute heaven.

Grey Fox bluegrass festival Grey Fox bluegrass festival Grey Fox bluegrass festival

In keeping with my last post, I had ideas for a summery healthy dinner that I planned to share with you last week, but fate had other ideas. I scheduled an extra day off after the festival so I’d have time to nurse the world’s largest hangover. My plan was to make and photograph said recipe then. Two days into my trip however, things changed.

If you recall my “yardening” post from last spring, you may remember hearing about our “sickly plum tree” and seeing the trunk of said tree in the photo below.

tree trunk

Two days into my trip I received a text from Russell with this photo:

fallen tree

That’s taken from our bedroom window, and in the foreground you can see the deck we built last summer (with stairs to the right) to make getting out into the yard easier for us and the pups. The old “sickly plum tree” had just given up. Since we moved in I’ve been trying to figure out how to nurse the poor tree back to health, but the fact of the matter is that I had little to no idea what I was doing. I tried trimming off dead branches, but more kept dying, and every spring the leaves and fruit suffered from a white mildew that would cause all the fruit and about half of the leaves to fall off early in the summer.

Late last summer I noticed that the tree had A LOT of ants on it, and most of them would travel down to the base of the tree and disappear into the ground between the roots. Well, apparently the ants had decided to take advantage of the defenseless old tree and make a nice home in it’s trunk. When I finally got back home to take a look, the trunk of the tree was completely rotted out and had been turned into a dark and crumbly swiss cheese of insect tunnels. After fighting with all the strength it had left, the tree had finally just given up.

Seeing how bad the trunk was, I’m actually surprised it hadn’t fallen earlier.

Rather than making delicious food in the comfort of my home, on my day off I got to stand outside for several hours in 95 degree heat and cut the poor tree up into manageable chunks with the world’s dullest, rustiest handsaw. After waiting for almost a month for our landlord to fix our oven when it broke, we figured it wasn’t even worth asking for his help with the tree so I just did it myself. It was quite a workout though, so at least I can say it was all in the name of fitness.

Anyway, now the yard looks more like this.

fallen tree after

I’ve still got a lot of work to do to clear all the debris and get rid of the wood somehow (we can’t have fires back there, we tried once and had the fire department at our door within 20 minutes). Although I miss the tree, and it may take some getting used to, I actually really like how open the yard feels now. I feel like I might need to rethink my (meager) landscaping there, but the quality of light in our room feels so much nicer and brighter now, so that’s good.

SOOOooooo…

Without the time to photograph a full meal after the tree massacre, I thought I might share this taco seasoning I’ve been using lately instead. Russell and I tend to eat a lot of ground turkey or grilled chicken tacos, and now that we’re trying to eat better they’re a great meal we can make after work. There are a lot of small family owned tortilla factories in my neighborhood so we can get our corn tortillas super fresh. A few torillas filled with some well seasoned lean meat, sauteed onion, and black beans is the perfect quick and easy weeknight meal. Rather than cheese or sour cream, we like ours with a few creamy slices of ripe avocado.

homemade taco seasoning | Brooklyn Homemaker

I like to make my own seasoning because we make tacos so often. The store bought stuff is crazy salty and some of it has some really questionable ingredients that I’m not super comfortable eating on a regular basis.

This seasoning is not only fresher and much less salty, but you also know exactly what you’re putting into it and can customize it to your taste. I like my tacos nice and spicy, so in addition to the chile powder I like to add ground cayenne pepper too. Cinnamon adds a warmth without adding spicy heat, and smoked paprika adds a great warm smokiness. You may think cornstarch is an odd addition to a seasoning blend, but most taco seasoning does have thickening agents in it to help make a nice thick sauce. If you don’t like using cornstarch you could substitute arrowroot powder instead or leave it out altogether. It’s your party!

homemade taco seasoning | Brooklyn Homemaker

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • Servings: makes about 6 ounces, enough for 4 to 6 pounds of meat
  • Print
adapted from Love & Olive Oil

6 tablespoons ground chile powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper, optional
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all spices in a small bowl and whisk until evenly distributed. Can be stored in an airtight jar or container for future use. Recipe doubles (or triples, or more) very easily.

If using ground meat, brown the meat first then add seasoning along with a few tablespoons of water. You’ll want about 2 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of ground meat. Stir regularly until meat is fully cooked and sauce is thickened. I like to add a diced small onion while I brown the meat, and a drained can of black beans right at the end. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

You can also use the seasoning as a rub for chicken breast. Sear the chicken breasts until fully cooked and slice thin before adding to tacos.