Lentils: Pantry Gems
Lentils: Pantry Gems available on iBooks
So, I wrote a cookbook.
Not just any cookbook.
This one has one main theme: Lentils. Yep, lentils.
I know what you are thinking. Just lentils? You aren't including the other pulses? Why oh why would you devote a whole cookbook to lentils?
Well, why not? I'm mean, really. They are an inexpensive form of plant protein. They are full of fiber and very nutritious. Honestly, we should all be eating more lentils (and other pulses).
But this just isn't a cookbook with a bunch of soup an stew recipes. No, I actually bake with lentils. And sprout them. Brine them. Put them in salads. Cake. Cookies. And discuss them in detail -- give you the full nitty gritty about this little legume that is found in cuisines around the world.
If you are looking for ways to incorporate more vegetarian cuisine or recipes into your repertoire, then you need this book. I amassed over 40 recipes featuring lentils. But I still have more recipes and ideas for them, so perhaps there will be a part 2 in the future. Maybe I'll even bring in some of their pulse cousins, like chickpeas.
To get you started, here is a great cookie recipe that I make often for my kiddos.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen cookies
Place the lentils in a saucepan. Cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until soft, about 20-25 minutes. Drain off the liquid. Let the lentils cool for 10-15 minutes. Place them in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Save 3/4 cup of the lentil puree for the recipe. Any remaining puree can be refrigerated (for up to 4 days) or frozen (for up to 6 months) for later use.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well to combine. Stir in the lentil puree. Add the flour mixture and mix until well combined.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes. Remove from pan and cool cookies on a wire rack.
Be sure to share.
The Basics: Baking 101
Ok, so some people like to bake. Some just like to cook. I happen to be one of those that enjoys doing both. Baking (especially bread) provides me a sense of accomplishment that I do not get from making a simple dish like spaghetti. Maybe it's because it does not take much for me to make a plate of pasta but with baking, I have to think in ratios and how the ingredients work together. It takes patience and I have to measure ingredients (most of the time). It's more precise than making meatloaf or soup.
However, if you are new to this whole "baking" thing, I have some tips for you:
Baking is a science, more so than cooking. Treating it like a science will definitely improve your baking skills.
Know your chemical leavening agents, which are acids and bases (Oh no! Chemistry!!):
Preheat the oven
This seems like a no-brainer but it must be repeated. Preheat the oven prior to baking. This is especially important for cakes, muffins, or breads where it is important that the immediate heat of the hot oven starts the baking process right away (like getting those chemical reactions to occur rapidly).
Room temperature ingredients
Unless you are making pastries, you need room temperature ingredients. For instance, if you are making cakes, cookies, or muffins, let all the butter, eggs, and milk come to room temperature before mixing together. If the butter is at room temperature and you’ve carefully creamed it together with the sugar, adding cold eggs and milk will start to solidify the butter. Your end product will turn out greasy.
Nearly every cookie or cake recipe calls for creaming together the butter and sugar. What does this even mean? Well, it means thoroughly mixing together the butter and sugar until it is one homogenized mixture, light, and fluffy.
Muffins (and pancakes)
Do not over mix muffin or pancake batter. Why? Over mixing the batter will make a tough, flat pancake and causing tunneling (air pockets) in muffins. Mix the wet and dry ingredients separately before combining. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and then stir the mixture until just combined. Some tiny lumps are ok. The batter should not be smooth.
Master a simple cake recipe, cookie recipe, and muffin recipe like the one below. Below is my grandmother's snickerdoodle recipe and happens to be my kids' favorite cookie. I will be posting more cake, cookie, and muffin recipes over the next few months. Stay tuned!
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cream together the shortening, sugars, eggs, and cream. Add the vanilla. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly to combine well. The cookie dough will be quite stiff.
In a small bowl, mix together the 1/2 cup sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the cinnamon and sugar. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack.
*You can use white whole wheat flour.
These are probably one of the simpler cookies to bake at Christmas time. However, you need a cookie press in order to make them. I've had my press for several years and they come in all shapes and sizes. Check out Amazon.com for more info regarding purchasing one.
But be careful, these cookies will go fast! They are buttery and sweet with a hint of vanilla. Santa will surely enjoy a quite a few!
Preheat oven to 400º.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg and extracts. Mix in flour and salt.
Divide dough into 3 portions, providing you want to color the dough. One portion will stay uncolored (white). The other two can be colored red and green. Add more flour to the red and green dough to compensate for the extra moisture, about 2-4 tablespoons flour.
Place the dough in a cookie press and form the desired shapes. Bake until set but not brown 5-6 minutes.
Immediately remove from the cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.
*Note: The cookie sheets need to be cool/room temp to the touch and wiped off between batches. My cookie press is a bit finicky, so hopefully you'll find one that is less tempermental.
Pistachio and Date Cookies
It's holiday time - the time of year when we eat lots of cookies and sweets. While I have a lot of cookie recipes to share, I thought I would share a rather simple one that contains dates and pistachios. We like pistachios, right? Dates? Of course! Why not put them together in a cookie?
The cookies are delicate and small and would be perfect for a holiday gathering. Or maybe you don't want to share them with anyone. That's ok. They're your cookies.
Pistachio and Date Cookies
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and orange zest until well combined. Beat in the flour. Add the dates and nuts; mix until thoroughly blended.
Roll 1 tablespoon of cookie mixture in your hands. Shape into a crescent. Place on a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool. When cool, roll in powdered sugar.
*Finely chop the dates in a food processor. Lightly grease the blades of the food processor before you pulse the dates to prevent them from sticking.