Sloppy joes are a perfect comfort food: they’re hearty and can be eaten with your hands. What more could you want? These sloppy joes are made with lentils, making them perfect for vegetarians and vegans. They’re high in protein, low in fat, and are extremely filling. If you aren’t ready for a totally meatless experience, reduce the amount of lentils by half and add a quarter pound of ground beef.
Lentil Sloppy Joes
- 1/2 c. uncooked lentils
- 2 c. water
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste*
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. yellow mustard
- Put lentils in a small pot and add water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain.
- Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until onions are soft. Add cooked lentils, chili powder, oregano, salt, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Mix well, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add brown sugar and mustard and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes so flavors can blend. Serve on hamburger buns or your favorite roll.
*Tomato paste can be found in resealable tubes at most grocery stores. (If it’s in Oklahoma, surely it’s everywhere.) You can also find it online at Amazon: Amore Tomato Paste.
Spring is a time to shake off winter’s grasp and enjoy warmer weather by grilling and dining al fresco. Sometimes, though, a spring shower can ruin those plans and make a whole day feel dreary and dull. On rainy spring days, I like to turn on my oven and put in an easy, minimally-intensive meal. The aroma of roasting chicken and vegetables will perk up any grey day!
Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
- 2 bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts
- 3 medium sized zucchini, sliced to 1/2″ thickness
- 8 oz. mushrooms, halved
- 1 red onion, sliced into 8 wedges
- 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Coarse salt & freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tbsp. dried rosemary, crushed
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large (9″x13″) baking dish or roasting pan, combine zucchini, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and olive oil. Toss well to combine and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, combine 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, and all of the rosemary in a small bowl. Using your fingers, gently loose the skin from the chicken meat on each breast. Spread the rosemary mixture evenly on each chicken breast under the skin. Replace the skin, and sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt.
- After 15 minutes, place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables. Continue cooking for 35 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving
I have a deep and abiding love for pizza. In college I spent the better part of two years making pizzas at Domino’s, where I received an education in proofing dough, appropriately applying cheese, and getting creative with topping combinations when the appeal of my usual pepperoni-and-mushroom combo ran thin. There was something immensely satisfying in being able to knock out a large order quickly, and I took pride in my ability to get a large pepperoni pizza from dough ball to oven-ready in under a minute. Was it haute cuisine? Of course not. Do I eat at Domino’s these days? Not usually; Tulsa has an astonishing number of excellent pizzerias. Most of the time, though, I simply prefer to make my own pizza.
I use the same basic dough recipe regardless of the toppings I choose. It’s a whole-wheat dough that yields a pleasantly thin and chewy crust. It’s ridiculously easy and requires no special equipment. I use a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment to make this, but it can be made by hand- I’ve given instructions for both. Best of all, the recipe makes a lot of dough; it keeps in the refrigerator perfectly for about two weeks. The dough balls are fairly small; Johnny and I usually eat one small pizza each, with a salad on the side. (Confession: sometimes we bake another pizza and split it. They’re that good!)
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 1 tbsp.)
- 2 c. warm water
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tsp. coarse ground salt
- 2 c. whole wheat flour
- 1/2 c. flax or toasted wheat germ
- Olive oil, for oiling bowl
- In a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the warm water and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups all purpose flour and the salt, then stir in whole wheat flour, flax or wheat germ. Add remaining 1/2 c. all purpose flour 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough comes away from the bowl, but is still slightly sticky to touch.
- If using a stand mixer: use dough hook attachment to knead dough on low speed (I use speed 2 on my Kitchen-Aid mixer) for about 5-7 minutes or until dough is smooth and springs back when pressed. If kneading by hand: turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes until dough is smooth and springs back when pressed.
- Lightly oil a large bowl, add dough, and turn to coat. Cover surface of dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 1/2 hours.*
- When ready to use dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into 6 equal portions. Roll into balls, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest 30 minutes. To shape dough, gently flatten dough ball on well-floured surface. Form crust by pressing fingers into dough about 1/4″ from dough ball’s edge and rotating dough so crust is even. Gently stretch dough by keeping one hand steady and pulling dough outward with other hand. Continue to stretch dough until it is about 12″ in diameter. If dough rips, simply press back together and stretch a thicker part.
- Place dough round on a sheet of parchment paper and top with desired toppings. Bake at 450 degrees F for 13-15 minutes on a preheated pizza stone or inverted baking sheet; keep dough on parchment paper for ease of insertion and removal from oven.
*If you, like me, keep your thermostat set at a toasty 65 degrees all winter, your dough will not rise properly sitting on the kitchen counter. A very warm windowsill will work, but I find my dough rises best in a bathroom with the door closed and heating fan on. You likely know where the warmest room in your house is- get creative and use it!
I’ll share some of my favorite pizza topping combinations in later posts. What are your favorite toppings?
Pasta is one of those things that makes a cold winter night feel a little warmer. When you don’t want to spend the afternoon simmering a tomato sauce, put together this simple dish for a meal that’s easy, tasty, and filling. I used white button mushrooms, since that’s what I had on hand, but cremini or baby portobello mushrooms would be an extra delicious substitute.
Linguine With Mushrooms, Red Pepper, & Garlic
- 4 oz. whole wheat linguine
- 6 oz. sliced mushrooms
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 tbsp. white wine
- 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
- 1/2 tsp. coarse ground salt
- 1/2 tsp. coarse ground pepper
- Parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/4 c. pasta water.*
- Heat oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper; cook until fragrant and softened, about 1 minute.
- Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook just soft, about 2 minutes. Add white wine and continue to cook until mushrooms are soft and have released their juices, about 3 more minutes.
- Toss drained pasta with mushrooms and parsley. If pasta seems dry, add reserved pasta water a little at a time until sufficiently moistened.
- Serve immediately topped with grated Parmesan cheese.
*To reserve pasta water, use a ladle to spoon out water immediately before draining pasta. Be very careful, as water is extremely hot!
These stuffed peppers are packed full of goodness: quinoa and a variety of veggies make them a healthy weeknight meal. While the baking time is on the long side, they’re well worth the wait. A bell pepper and a half plus a side salad make for a filling and delicious dinner!
Quinoa & Veggie Stuffed Peppers
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 4 oz. sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 c. chopped carrots
- 4 bell peppers; 1 cored, seeded, and chopped; tops removed and reserved from remaining 3, then cored and seeded
- 1/4 c. chopped parsley
- 2 oz. baby spinach
- 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 c. uncooked quinoa
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
- Combine quinoa with 1/2 c. water; bring to rapid boil, then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly oil small baking dish (8″x 6″ or 8″x 8″)
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until transparent and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and chopped peppers; cook until just softened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add parsley and spinach; cook until spinach is wilted. Stir in cinnamon, cumin, and cooked quinoa. Toss gently to combine.
- Divide quinoa mixture among remaining 3 bell peppers, gently packing it down so each pepper is fully filled. Top each pepper with reserved top and arrange in baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes. Serve immediately.
Johnny and I aren’t vegetarians, but we don’t eat meat often. It’s fairly expensive and can be difficult to find in quantities appropriate for two people. We eat a lot of tofu.
Tofu is one of those things about which people seem terribly prejudiced. Some are convinced it’s an absolutely disgusting and inedible foodstuff, while others see it as a symbol of the reusable bag-toting, animal-loving, Subaru-driving lifestyle. (Full disclosure: Johnny and I both drive Subarus.) I’ll be the first to admit that badly cooked tofu is among the nastiest of culinary disasters, but when it’s cooked well, it’s a delicious and satisfying alternative to meat.
This tofu reuben is everything a sandwich connoisseur could want. The tofu is well-seasoned and cooked to crispy perfection. Homemade Russian dressing, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese accompany the tofu on deliciously chewy rye bread. It’s a meaty and filling sandwich. When served with chips and a pickle, you can almost imagine you’re at an incredibly trendy deli.
- 7 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, cut crosswise into 4 slices
- 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 1.5 tbsp. ketchup
- 1 tbsp. sweet relish
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. coarse-ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 4 slices rye bread
- 2 slices Swiss cheese
- Place tofu slices in single layer between two clean kitchen towels (or several paper towels). Top with a heavy skillet or other heavy object; let stand for at least 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, and relish.
- In a small bowl, mix coriander, pepper, garlic powder, salt and sugar.
- Remove tofu from towels. Brush tofu on both sides with Worcestershire, then rub both sides with spice mixture.
- Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook tofu, turning once, until browned, 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover, and keep warm. Wipe out skillet with clean paper towel.
- Spread 1/2 tbsp. butter on each slice of bread. Set bread butter-side down on clean work surface. Spread about 1 tbsp. mayonnaise mixture on each slice; top with cheese, tofu, and desired amount of sauerkraut. Close sandwiches and carefully transfer to skillet. Cook sandwiches, turning once until bread is crisp and cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve immediately.