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Strawberry Almond Chocolate Fudge

straberry almond fudgeI am heading out to a curling event this evening, and agreed to bring some treats for sharing.  I was feeling lazy today, and not in the mood for anything heavy-duty baking wise.  I checked out the pantry and decided to whip up this quick and easy chocolate confection.  It is not a true fudge in the sense that there are no boiled sugars and what not, but it IS fudgy, and judging by the edges I cut off (and tasted….for research purposes of course ;) ) pretty tasty.  I also think this would make a nice treat for Valentines Day to share with whoever you like!

  • 16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped dried strawberries (I used a kitchen scissors for easier going)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Line a square baking pan with plastic wrap or foil and set aside. Now, you can make this in a double boiler, but the easiest way is to get a microwave safe bowl big enough to hold the ingredients and go that way.  Combine the chocolate, milk and butter in the dish, and microwave it for 3-4 minutes, stopping part way to stir.  Once the mixture is melted together, stir in your strawberries and almonds.  Pour and press mixture into prepared pan and allow it to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before lifting from pan, removing wrap/foil and cutting into squares.  Keep in a sealed container at cooler temperatures.

Lentils, Lentils and more Lentils !!

You may have noticed a little theme running through my last few posts.  I am on my second year entering the Canadian Lentil Recipe Revelations Challenge put on by http://www.lentils.ca/ .  Last year I had a lot of fun developing recipes and it truly did challenge me to come up with new ways to use lentils, an ingredient I keep in my pantry in all varieties for soups, salads and mains.  Last year’s entries included Picadillo Lentil Chimichangas, a Candied Lentil and Pomegranate Salad, Lentil Coconut Shrimp, a Mango Smoothie and Black Forest Cheesecake Crepes.

This year, I am entering once again all five categories:

I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and hope you try some of these out for yourself.  If you are so inclined, please drop by the Lentil Revelations Challenge over on Pinterest and check out my entries and show a little love.  There are loads of fantastic posts on there, its great to see everyone’s creative juices flowing!

Lentil Pastitsio

Lentil PastitsioPastitsio is Greece’s answer to lasagna – a baked pasta dish topped with rich bechamel and traditionally made with spiced ground lamb or sometimes beef.  My mother had this in her casserole repertoire, but I had not had it in a very long time as I no longer eat meat.  I decided it was time to change that, and set about whipping up a vegetarian version with lentils in place of ground meat.  The result is a warm and hearty casserole, a complete protein-filled meal perfect for these dark winter evenings.  Serve it up with a little salad and some crusty bread and you are good to go.  Portion up and freeze the leftovers for meals throughout the week, or make the entire dish ahead of time, wrap in the fridge and reheat the next day.

There are a few steps to this recipe, but I promise it is simple, and you can even make the lentil filling ahead of time if you want. It’s worth it !

For the lentil filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups dry green lentils
  • 3 cups vegetarian “beef” broth or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 796ml can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 1 156ml can tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

For the bechamel:

  • 1/4 + 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup grated parmesan

And last but not least:

  • 500 grams dry tubular pasta (rotini or ziti for example)
  • salted water for boiling

Start by cooking your lentils. Add the dry lentils to the 3 cups of broth/stock and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender, but still retaining some bite (as they will continue to cook in the sauce).  Drain any remaining liquid and set aside.

Using a large saute pan, add onions and garlic to oil, and cook over medium heat until the onions are starting to become translucent.  Add wine and spices to pan, then tomatoes, tomato paste and the lentils.  Reduce heat to low-medium and allow the mixture to simmer until liquids have reduced.  Stir the cornstarch into the soy sauce to combine and add to the lentil mixture.  Continue to cook until slightly thickened, just a few minutes more. Adjust salt to taste (amount will depend on type of broth you use). Remove from heat and allow to cool while making the bechamel.

Place a larger saucepan over medium heat.  Add butter to pan and allow to fully melt and start to bubble.  Whisk in flour and keep over heat for about a minute.  Add milk and continue to whisk until mixture is thickened and bubbling.  Reduce heat.  Add seasonings.  Use a fork to whisk the two egg yolks in a separate bowl.  Add about a tablespoonful of the bechamel sauce to the egg yolks, whisking with the fork throughout.  Add egg yolk mixture to the pot of sauce, whisking continuously until incorporated.  Stir in Parmesan.  Remove from heat.

Add dry pasta to salted boiling water and cook until al dente, taking care not to overboil the pasta, as it will continue to bake in the casserole and absorb some of the liquids.  Drain water from pasta, return to pot and stir in about a half cup of the bechamel.

You’re now ready to assemble the dish. Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a large 9×13 lasagna pan.  Layer half the pasta along the bottom of the pan, in single layer (I placed the pasta end to end).  Spread lentil mixture evenly over top of pasta.  Layer remaining pasta over top in a single layer.  Spread bechamel over top of all.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until top of bechamel is browned and bubbling.  (Note that you may want to lay the lasagna pan on a larger baking sheet to catch any overflow, depending on the size of your dish.)

Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Blood Orange, Fennel and Lentil Salad

Blood Orange, Fennel and Lentil SaladI am always really happy to see the blood oranges arrive in the supermarket during their season.  I love their gorgeous color and tart flavor.  I usually enjoy them as is, but have been wanting to make a winter salad out of them for a while.  The recipe, with its contrast of colors between the red oranges, white fennel and black beluga lentils would make this salad fancy enough to serve to guests, but also easy enough to whip up and take for lunches through the week (tip: layer your salads in mason jars with the dressing and heavier ingredients at bottom and greens on top – easy to plate at lunchtime and nothing gets mushy). Outside their season, you can substitute another orange variety, making the recipe accessible year-round.

  • 150 gram package mixed mini salad greens
  • 1/2 large bulb of fennel, white only, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cooked black beluga lentils*
  • 3 blood oranges (or 2 if they are large), peeled and sectioned (reserve juices by squeezing the remaining membranes)
  • 1/2 cup pitted brined black olives (such as kalamata or Moroccan)
  • 3/4 cup bocconcini pearls (or cubed bocconcini)
  • 6 tbsp light tasting olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • juice reserved from blood oranges
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Layer salad ingredients in order up to and including the bocconcini cheese.  For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, reserved juices from oranges, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss dressing with salad before serving or pass dressing along side.

*to cook lentils, use a quantity of dried lentils in about double the amount of water, i.e. 1 cup of lentils to 2 cups of water, boil at medium until tender but not mushy.  They will typically double in size after cooking, so you can gauge your recipe accordingly, but leftover lentils can be added to other salads, wraps or what not.  They can also be frozen in a sealed container.

Flourless Cinnamon Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream

Lentil Chocolate Cinnamon Cake with Coffee Cream

If you have been following my blog the past few days, you might just guess the secret ingredient in this cake.  Inspired by flourless chocolate cakes that incorporate ground nuts into the batter, I decided instead to try sneaking some lentils, (yes lentils!) into mine.  I  waited with bated breath to see how it all turned out. My experiment worked wonderfully! The resulting cake is completely flourless, nut-free and has a texture somewhere between a fudgy truffle and cheesecake.  To give it that extra “WHOA!” I decided to top the cake with a coffee mascarpone whipped cream.  Divine !

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup cooked red lentils
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp whipping cream, divided
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with a circle of parchment. Wrap outside of pan in a little foil to contain any leaks. Set aside.

Combine water and sugar in a microwave safe dish and cook for a minute or so, until sugar crystals dissolve fully.  Set aside.

Place a saucepan over low-medium heat, add butter and allow to fully melt.  Add chocolate and whisk until fully melted.  Whisk in sugar syrup and cinnamon.  Turn off heat.

In a separate bowl combine the 6 eggs and 1 cup cooked red lentils.  Use a stick blender to puree the mixture quickly (do not overbeat).  Alternately, add these two ingredients to a blender and puree this way.

Slowly pour egg/lentil mixture into chocolate mixture, whisking continuously until fully combined.  Pour into springform pan. Bake cake for 50-60 minutes or until top appears dry and slightly crackled.  Turn off oven and allow cake to cool inside for a half hour or so before moving pan to a cooling rack.  Cake will fall slightly as it cools.  Run a knife around inner edge of pan to keep cake from cracking excessively (top will still be slightly crackled).  Allow cake to fully cool in refrigerator before removing from pan.

When ready to serve, run a knife inside inner edge of cake pan then release the springform sides.  Slide a cake spatula under cake and remove to a serving platter, removing parchment from bottom in the process.

Combine 2 tbsp whipping cream with the instant coffee, stir to dissolve. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer with a metal bowl, combine the whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, icing sugar and the coffee-cream mixture.  Whip until peaks form.  Spread over top of chocolate cake.

To serve, cut with a knife, wiping blade between cuts.

Cinnamon Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream

Savory Spinach and Sweet Potato Waffles

Savory Spinach and Sweet Potato Waffles2

We are now on our second (and soon to be third!) snowstorm this week, so I am spending the snow days cooking and stocking the freezer.  And because I also decided to treat myself to a new waffle maker this week, I decided to try out a new recipe.

These savory waffles are very versatile, great for breakfast or snacks, you could even make a sandwich with them.  They are equally tasty fresh from the waffle maker, or at room temp, so they make for great on the go snacks as well.  They cover all the bases, filled with vegetables and a little added protein and fibre from lentils sneakily hidden away in the batter.

If planning to make and serve on the day, keep your oven at low heat and put a wire rack in there to keep the prepared waffles warm until you are ready to go.  The beauty of these waffles is that they can also be frozen and warmed in the toaster or toaster oven, so make a big batch, and keep them in the freezer for rushed mornings or after school snacks.

On to the recipe!

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cooked red lentils
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter, cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup cooked chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup mashed baked sweet potato
  • 1/2 roasted red pepper, chopped (about 2 tbsp)
  • 2 green onions, green only, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded havarti cheese

Preheat waffle maker. To a bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper, whisk to combine, then stir in sunflower seeds.

Use a stick or regular blender to combine the milk, lentils and dijon mustard. Once lentils are pureed, add the eggs and give the blender a few pulses just to incorporate the eggs. Stir in spinach, sweet potato, roasted red pepper, green onions and cheese.

Pour milk mixture into flour and whisk to combine.

Fill waffle maker with batter, close lid and allow to cook for 5-6 minutes (open lid after a few minutes to see progress, cooking time may depend on your waffle maker).

Serve with your choice of dipping sauces or as is. I served mine with a chipotle salsa and a herb and garlic sour cream.

French Lentil and Brie Tarts

French Lentil and Brie TartsThese little savory and slightly sweet tarts are at as much at home on an appetizer platter or along side a salad for a tasty lunch (especially if you use a larger tart shell).  Quick and easy to assemble if you use pre-made pastry shells and the filling can be made ahead of time if you like.  They are a great vegetarian alternative to offer your guests.

On to the recipe!

  • 1/2 cup cooked french green lentils
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • two basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 18-20 small pastry shells
  • brie, cubed (6-8 ounces, depending on how cheesy you like it)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and if using frozen tart shells, remove them from the freezer and lay out on cooking pan.

Combine lentils, currants, pecans, tomato, shallot, garlic, brown sugar, vinegar, basil and salt and pepper.  Spoon into pastry shells, filling to top.  Place a cube of brie on top of each tart.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until pastry is golden and cheese is bubbling.  Allow to cool and voila!

Tarts plateBon Appetit !

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