Thursday, October 25, 2012

Curried Lentil Stew (Vegan, Gluten-free, Refined-sugar Free)

We are on week three of the hubz' meatless cleanse.  He gets one 'cheat' day per week, usually Sunday.  He can eat meat until he's gassy, if he pleases.  But to be honest, I'm really proud of him.  He's only cheated once outside of his Sundays.  (He gave into BBQ, that saucy temptress...)  And even more surprisingly he's actually been enjoying the vegan dishes I've been preparing for him.  It's been a nice break for me as well.  I typically have to prepare two separate dinners.  One with meat, and one sans meat.  So for me, because I cook for myself lastly, it's nothing more than a large plate of roasted cauliflower.  And cauliflower is great and satisfying and all those simple adjectives used to describe super simple yummy food.  But it's just cauliflower.  Nothing else.  My husband would starve to death.  So I've been getting a little help from some of my blogger friends who are more experienced in putting together photo-worthy, carnivore-approved vegan dinners.

Last week we enjoyed a few things...

Roasted Curry Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry, by Chef Amber Shea at Almost Vegan

Copycat Panda Express Orange Sauce with 'Popcorn' Cauliflower and Veggies, compliments of Chocolate-Covered Katie

My very own Southwest Veggie Pasta (which I'll blog about eventually)

Whole Grain Pasta with Mushroom Marinara and Roasted Veggies (I'll also blog this recipe!)

Amber's White Bean and Broccoli Pasta Toss

Vegan Tacos, Topped with Fresh Pico and a Side of Black Beans and Brown Rice (also on the backlog)

We also sneaked in some supposedly lightened-up desserts, like this vegan and gluten-free pumpkin coffee cake with ginger snap streusel topping.  And yes, this will ALSO be on the blog very soon, so no worries, hungry peeps.

 And just a little something I rolled up on a lazy afternoon...
I know it looks strange, but it's SOOOOOO good and SOOOOOO easy.  Whole grain tortilla, natural peanut butter, raw honey, and a lonely little banana, who was sitting in the fruit bowl all by himself with no apples to call his friends.  Poor little guy.

Now that you've indulged yourself in food porn, let's get back to lentils.  Cheap.  Extremely versatile and forgiving.  And most importantly, SATISFYING.  They fill up hungry bellies.  Yes, even those big guys who pound their chests and scream for a steak.  And cheap.  I think I paid $1.09 for an entire 14-oz. bag of lentils at Wal-Mart.  No, they weren't organic for all you food snobs.  Sorry, I'm on a budget right now.  BUT I'm willing to bet you can still find bags of organic lentils for a relatively reasonable price online, at Trader Joe's, or purchased in bulk.  And all of the veggies used in this dish are ALSO very affordable, especially when you have an awesome City Market that sells things to you at wholesale cost. 

This particular recipe was inspired yet again by one of my favorite vegan blogs on the blogosphere,  Amber and I have VERY similar tastes in food I discovered after spending hours, which turned into days, browsing through all of her drool-worthy creations.  Indian, Ethiopian, comforting, sweet stuff, and so many effortless raw desserts, which are not only HEALTHY for the body but tasty to the tongue.  You can check out her original recipe here for these curried lentils.  I didn't change much, but I did prepare them in a slightly different way, making the overall dish itself a bit thicker, more stew-like (although I'm sure that Amber's dish probably thickens up quite a bit when left in the fridge overnight).  I didn't have all the jalapenos I needed on hand, so I just used the one I had, including some of the seeds for heat, and then added some additional cayenne pepper.  (The dish was still overall relatively mild, so I would probably add more jalapenos next time.)  I also played around with the spices a bit and made them extra flavorful by using veggie both in place of the water originally called for.  And as for the lentils, I 'pre-prepared' mine so that I could actually freeze half of the full batch and pull out later in the week for a super quick and easy 30-minute meal. 

Curried Lentil Stew (makes 6-8 servings)

  • Half a full batch of 'partially' prepared lentils, red or brown (see notes on preparation)*
  • 3 C. veggie broth (or chicken stock if you're not vegan)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. EVOO or coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (the more seeds you leave in, the spicier this dish will be)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • One-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into discs 
  • 1 C. frozen peas
  • 2 tsp. sugar (I used raw cane sugar, which has the rich taste of brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. good-quality curry powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoky paprika
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Lots of freshly minced cilantro (I probably used close to 1/2 C., adjust to suit your taste buds)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 C.cooked brown rice 

*Preparing the Lentils:
So I'm basically just softening the lentils up a bit, using half for the recipe, and then freezing the other half.  Why do I do this?  Quick and easy, folks.  Now although I still tend to slowly simmer, on low heat, most of my soups, stews, beans, etc., I like having the option of pulling out partially-prepared lentils and then quickly stir-frying some veggies, adding a bit of liquid to bring everything together, and possibly enjoying a meal in 30 minutes. 

Take a 14-oz. bag of lentils, dump into small stock pot (soup pot, whatever you use/call it), add about 6 cups of water along with a tsp. of sea salt.  Then just bring to a soft, rolling boil and then immediately drop your heat to medium-low and ONLY allow these to simmer for 5 minutes.  They will also be soft enough to eat at this stage with some 'bite' left in tact.  Then drain the water off immediately and set aside half of what you just prepared to be frozen and the other half to be used right now.  *(If you would rather not deal with this step, you can simply add the lentils at the time you pour in the veggie broth, allowing them to cook as everything else simmers.  But be aware that you may have to add in more liquid over time as the lentils will soak up some of the liquid during the cooking process.

Cooking Directions:
1.  Heat oil in large pot (I used a large sautee pan with high edges, enough to hold the stew) over medium heat.
2.  Toss in all the minced veggies, minus the frozen peas, along with your spices, cilantro, and sugar.  Also add about 1/2 tsp. of salt to start and to 'sweat out' the veggies.  (I always salt in stages, small amounts at a time, to ensure I do not over-salt my dish.  So add in small increments, and taste along the way!)

3.  Cook all of this mixture together, stirring around from time to time, for about 5-7 minutes, or just until the veggies are becoming soft and everything is smelling very fragrant. 
4.  Slowly add in the veggie broth.  Turn the heat up a bit so you can bring this mixture to a 'soft' rolling boil.
5.  Once 'softly' boiling, add in the lentils and immediately drop the heat down to medium-low. 

6.  And now, we just finish cooking this off until most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the stew is nice and thick.  There are two ways to do this.  You can opt to cook this at just a slightly higher temp., with the lid off, until you reach your desired thickness.  Since I'm always multitasking, I chose to cover the entire thing and just allow it simmer on medium-low for about 45 minutes.  Now be forewarned.  Doing it this way WILL make the lentils very soft.  So if you want more texture, finish cooking over slightly higher heat with the lid OFF. 
7.  Finally, stir in the frozen peas, cover, and remove from heat.  And give everything one last taste, seeing if you need to add more salt and black pepper.  Then just set the entire thing on a back burner, allowing the peas to thaw out and heat up.  This will also allow the flavors to come together, the stew will thicken, and everything will taste amazing.   (The longer you allow this to sit OFF of the heat, the thicker it will become.)

Now you are ready to eat!  I served mine over prepared brown rice, but you could certainly eat it over anything, or simply straight out of a bowl with a spoon, which is what I did for breakfast the following day.  If you aren't a strict vegan and allow eggs into your diet, try spooning this mixture over the top of a few eggs for breakfast.  So incredibly filling with tons of protein (and copious amounts of fiber) to kick-start the morning. 
And yes, I totally forgot to add the peas when I made this.  They would have photographed so beautifully, too.  Oh, well.  Next time, my lovelies.  Next time.

Once again...ugghhhhhh to all these spacing issues!  I'm not sure what the friggin' heck is up with the spacing issues between the pictures and actual text.  They appear the same on my edit page and then show up all kinds of crazy on the actual published page. 

Reader Question:
What are your favorite meatless protein sources?  And have you ever tried to feed them carnivores with any success?


  1. I'd eat anything and everything in this post! You're makin' me hungry...
    Happy to hear the lentil dish was "hubby-approved"! And of course I enjoyed your photos on Instagram the other night ;)

    1. Awwww, thanks! And thanks for sharing so many wonderful healthy and yummy recipes on your blog. Your blog is one of the only ones that my husband even says 'looks' yummy. He HATES most vegan food, or what he assumes is considered vegan food. Kale salads, raw vegetables...he can't stand any of it, lol. He's even impressed by the kale chips, although still skeptical. Hopefully I can change that soon enough. I'll be redoing some of my photos on Instagram, now that I've actually figured out you can change the lighting... <-- isn't 'technically' gift, lol

    2. That is a huge compliment - seriously, nothing tickles me pink like impressing carnivorous skeptics!
      I have a feeling there's lots I still don't know about Instagram, haha...I do the best I can with it ;)

    3. Oh, I'm sure I'm using the most elementary functions of Instagram. And I'm okay with that for now. I never got past a Super Nintendo, if that tells you anything about my tech-genes (my brother is the exact opposite, went to school for computer technology...he makes fun of me ALL THE TIME...). Yeah, Hubz is doing alright with the vegetarian 'cleanse'. I have a feeling he'll go another week or two. This week will be #4. I think he's cheated twice, outside of his 'cheat' day. Unless there's more I don't know about...

  2. chocolate-covered katieOctober 25, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    Everything looks delicious. Come cook for me??? :)

  3. Katie, only if you promise to make the desserts. :-) In that case, I'll be over every day, cooking my little heart out.

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  5. Hi, all! I apologize for the crazy comment left by an angry person earlier. She likes to bully other bloggers, and I 'sort of' came to the defense of another blogger friend who has a fantastic healthy dessert blog, and apparently I become next on said bully's list. That being said, I've deleted my heated, albeit comical, response to hers and deleted her like her 'other pet unicorn died'. A funny quote from said bully that I decided to keep here on the blog...because it gives me great joy and smiles. :-D I'm generally a nice and fairly calm person, but I do NOT, repeat...DO NOT...tolerate bullying. I went through is as a child for many years and witnessed my brother also experience it most of his obese childhood. Something I may still need to work on clearing from my subconscious programming, but in the meantime I DO continue to be vocal when against it. Normally I focus on things I'm 'for'...and I'm all 'for' yummy food. :-D

  6. My favorite is mushroom protein. I try to cut down on soy as i heard it's not very healthy unless it's fermented soy products (miso, natto, or soy sauce).

    I have not been able to get my pups to eat any of the raw veggies :( but they seem to like them cooked so that's good enough for now.

    1. Hi, Cathy! I've been away from the blogosphere and missed your comment! Yes, soy can be 'not-so-great' for some of us. I don't do well with it most forms. However I know many people who eat it regularly and seem to have no health issues. Although...I'll go as far to say that *some* will complain of headaches or other hormonal imbalances, and I almost always want to ask them how much unfermented soy is in their diet at that time. What works for one may not work for another. I personally have to keep eggs and some seafood protein in my diet to help keep my thyroid/auto-immune issues under control, but meatless sources tend to be the complete protein of rice and beans.

      Cooked veggies are better than NO veggies. :-) In fact, I do not digest many raw veggies myself, so 95% of my intake is cooked in some way. I do enjoy a good salad once a week with a nice mix of raw AND cooked veggies.