I love food. I love to taste it and smell it and cook it. I think that cooking is a magical act, one where you can take basic raw ingredients and turn them into fabulous creations that you get to eat. I am particularly fond of baking, much to my waistline’s dismay. (But Chev’s joy.) I have made very few New Year resolutions, but one of them is to suck it up and brave the mysteries of yeast. I want to learn how to make wonderful gluten free bread and soft pretzels for my girls. Because the stuff you can buy in the store, quite frankly, sucks. I also dream of sticky buns. Sweet, gooey, sticky buns. *drool*
One of my favorite things to do on Facebook is ask all of my friends what they are having for dinner. Not because I’m some weird food stalker or because I have nothing better to fill my hours with than reading about what other people like to eat. Its because reading my friends’ responses gives me ideas for future meals. I am always on the look out for new meal ideas. I scour magazines, cookbooks, and Pinterest for new ways to tempt my family to eat well. I have more Pinterest boards dedicated to food than to anything else. (Seriously, go check out my boards. I’m like a recipe hoarder.) We have dietary restrictions in our house, and that makes meals much trickier to plan.
I enjoy a good challenge.
Ellie has Celiac disease, which means that if she eats anything with gluten in it, her immune system thinks its a good idea to attack her small intestines. Sounds like fun, right? Not so much. Just one cookie can keep her (and me) up all night, crying with tummy pain and explosive diarrhea. And gluten is in everything a three year old loves. Seriously. Pasta, bread, cereal, pancakes, cookies, crackers….all of it is just filled with gluten. So we have to buy or make gluten free alternatives. Thankfully, the gluten free products out there have vastly improved over the last ten years. Diamond brand nuts makes awesome almond crackers that are basically Ellie crack. Schar brand pasta is actually better than normal pasta. Almost all of the Chex cereals are gluten free, including the delicious cinnamon variety. So good stuff is out there. But it is expensive. Oh, so expensive. And the bread all sucks, as previously mentioned.
I have high cholesterol, so I try to cook a lot of vegetarian meals. Which is also great since we are poor and need to save money. Meat is expensive, so we don’t eat much of it. I have to admit, it took poor Chev a while to get use to eating meals that were not meat based. Having grown up with a very strong “meat and potatoes” background, it took a while for her to accept that things like chick peas and carrots could take center stage. But after a while she found that she really liked our new meal plans. Maybe not as much as she likes a good, thick steak with a side of more steak, but better than she thought she’d like them, nonetheless.
This brings me to the heart of today’s topic: Dinner. I had always planned to share some of our favorite recipes with you, and tonight’s dinner seems like a perfect place to start. So, without further ado, I present you with…..our dinner.
Red Lentil Soup and Homemade Gluten Free Bread
Don’t freak out. I swear, it is super easy. Would I lie to you? No, I would not.
The soup recipe came from a magazine, but I have no idea which one or when. Sorry.
The bread recipe comes from http://www.elanaspantry.com/ She makes the BEST gluten free/dairy free/paleo food you can imagine. Try her snickerdoodle recipe. It will blow your mind.
Slow cooker (every mother’s friend)
Immersion blender (or regular blender and some patience)
Bread pan (7ish inches by 3.5ish inches..or whatever you have on hand)
For the soup:
3/4 cup blanched almonds (or regular almonds or almond meal. I won’t judge you.)2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 2 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 medium onion, quartered (We aren’t huge onion fans, so I use a shallot)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 bag (16oz) red lentils, rinsed and picked over (I never do this. I like to live dangerously.)
2 large vegetable bouillon cubes, crumbled
7 cups water (I have never used bouillon cubes in my life. I use four cups of veggie broth and three cups of water.)
1 Tablespoon curry powder (Hell no. We don’t do curry in this house. I throw some paprika in there instead.)
1/2 teaspoon salt (This is one of the few recipes that I actually add the salt. It needs it.)
3/4 cup heavy cream (Ok, not the lowest cholesterol ingredient, but it is still better than a slab of beef.)
Mix up everything except the cream in your slow cooker. Cover. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours. Uncover. Blend with immersion blender or VERY carefully transfer it to a regular blender in small batches. Make it smooth. Stir in heavy cream. Garnish with extra almonds and cilantro if you want to. (I never want to.)
For the bread:
1 1/2 c almond flour
3/4 c arrowroot flour
1/4 c golden flaxmeal (I can never find this, so I use 2 T millet flour instead)
1/2 t salt1/2 t baking soda
4 eggs (again…not so low in cholesterol…..)
1 t honey
1 t apple cider vinegar
Start your eggs in the mixer, blending for 3-5 minutes, until they are frothy. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, this will feel like an eternity. I don’t have a stand mixer.) Mix your dry ingredients together in another bowl. Add the honey and vinegar to the eggs. Mix some more. Stir in the dry ingredients with a spoon. Scoop batter into a greased bread loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when you stick it in the middle. Pop it out of the pan and cool on a wire rack.
This bread doesn’t have yeast, so it doesn’t rise very much. It is a dense, nutty bread. I wouldn’t use it for sandwiches, but we LOVE it with soup.
Oh, and for the record, no, my three year old twins do not eat this soup. They look at it. They poke it with their spoons. Occasionally they will stick a finger into it and lick it off. But please don’t think that I have some magic wand that makes toddlers eat lentil soup. I don’t. And I won’t lie to you about it. They DO like the bread, however, and every once in a while one of them will dip the bread into the soup and eat it that way. I consider that a win. One day they will like the soup and eat it up. That day is not likely to be today. And I’m ok with that.