lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Chunky Red Lentil Chili

If you’re looking for a hearty, satisfying dish but also want to eat something healthy, look no further than this chunky red lentil chili recipe.  Packed full of protein, veggies, and flavor, this easy lentil chili comes together quickly and is the definition of comfort food.

People often don’t know what to cook with lentils, though they’re very versatile. I particularly like red and black lentils, which work well in both hot dishes and cold salads. My husband is a big fan of my braised black lentils and their color is what gives them an extra boost of anthocyanins, which are powerfully good for you.

The other benefit of lentils is they cook very quickly, making them perfect as an easy side dish, or as a base for soup or chili, such as this one, which comes together in about an hour.

Vegetarian option:

To make this a vegetarian lentil chili, simply use vegetable stock, omit the ground turkey, and start the recipe by heating the oil and adding the vegetables as directed.

lola rugula easy red lentil chili

Chunky Red Lentil Chili with Black Beans Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb, ground turkey
  • 1 cup diced white or yellow onion
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced (I used red for the recipe pictured)
  • 1 small jalapeno, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed or diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • Salt, to taste, if needed

For garnish:

  • Sour cream
  • Finely-diced jalapeno
  • Finely-diced red onion
  • Chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes
  2. Add ground turkey, season with black pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until all moisture has evaporated.
  3. Drizzle in the second tablespoon of olive oil and stir well.
  4. Add onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno and stir well.
  5. Continue to cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
  6. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and stir well.
  7. Cook for about 4-5 minutes.
  8. Add stock, water, beans, tomatoes, and spices and stir well. Bring back to a healthy simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  9. Add lentils, stir well and continue to cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are cooked and liquid has reduced.
  10. Taste and add salt, if needed
  11. Ladle into bowls or mugs, spoon a dollop of sour cream on top of each and sprinkle with red onion, jalapeno and cilantro before serving.

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I love colorful dishes and this definitely is one. The spices add flavor and warmth, the addition of sour cream smooths out all the flavors and the fresh onion, jalapeno, and cilantro on top add an extra burst of crunch and flavor.

Isn’t this so simple? Probably the easiest chili recipe ever and I think you’ll be amazed at how much flavor this really has.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings

Dumplings are so much fun to make and there are a lot of things you can stuff them with.  I’ve already shared my recipe for my classic pork and cabbage dumplings but if you love vegetables and are looking to eat a little healthier, these steamed veggie dumplings a creative way to start.

Of course, you can make these veggie dumplings with whatever vegetables you like. I made this batch with lots of colorful veggies: purple cabbage, carrots, asparagus, yellow bell pepper, shitake mushrooms, and zucchini.

lola rugula what veggies to use in vegetable dumplings

The thing to remember with dumplings is that a little bit of filling is going to go a long way.  This recipe calls for only 2 1/2 cups of veggies and it makes around 70 dumplings. It’s easy to get carried away with tons of filling but then chances are good that you’re going to:

  1. Run out of dumpling wrappers
  2. Run out of patience

Consider yourself warned.

I like to make my filling a day ahead of time so that I can easily put the dumplings together when I’m ready.  If not making a day ahead, allow at least an hour for your filling to cool before assembling your dumplings.

You will need a steamer to make these – there are a number of different kinds of stovetop and electric steamers out there. In a pinch, you can also use a colander over a pan of boiling water, you just won’t be able to steam as many at one time.

lola rugula homemade vegetable dumplings

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings Recipe

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup shredded and chopped red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped asparagus
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped shitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow (or red or orange) bell pepper
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Wonton or Dumpling wrappers
  • Dipping sauce (recipe below)
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, ginger, and mushrooms and saute for about 3 minutes, until all start to soften
  3. Add the cabbage, carrot, asparagus, mushrooms, and bell pepper and saute, stirring often, 2minutes
  4. Cover and cook for 1 more minute
  5. Remove from heat
  6. Transfer to a glass or heat-proof dish, add scallions, toss and let cool

You barely want to cook your vegetables – just enough to cook the garlic and ginger and basically steam the rest of the veggies just a bit. When you remove it all from the heat, the vegetables should still be bright and colorful. They will continue to steam a bit as they sit and cool.

lola rugula vegetables for veggie dumplings

When your veggies are cool and you’re ready to start making your dumplings:

  1. Add sesame oil and soy sauce to your veggie mix and stir well.

To assemble your dumplings:

  1. Have a large clean counter area or cutting board ready to assemble your dumplings on.
  2. Have a shallow bowl or short glass of water ready to moisten the edges of the wrappers. I just use my finger to dampen the edges but you can also use a small pastry brush.
  3. Spoon a small amount of filling onto a wrapper.
  4. Moisten the edge of the wrapper and gently fold and press, fold or crimp the edges together until well sealed.
  5. Set your finished dumpling aside and repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers (Alternatively, you can also start steaming a batch and then wrap more as each batch steams)
  6. Steam dumplings for 10 minutes in the steamer of your choice
  7. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving dish
  8. Serve with dipping sauce (recipe below)

lola rugula vegetable dumpling

Now, I make dumplings enough that I invested a whopping couple of bucks in an inexpensive dumpling maker, which actually works pretty well.  Before that, I always hand-pinched my dumplings and here’s an example:

lola rugula how to make vegetable dumplings

Not perfect but works beautifully and proof that no cheapo dumpling maker is necessary.

Here’s my high-tech dumpling maker and a couple of dumplings made with it:

lola rugula how to make veggie dumplings

As you can see, they’re a little more uniform but basically the same, the dumpling maker just makes faster work of these. Of course, if you’re a pro dumpling maker, you can probably make handmade ones as fast as I do with my dumpling maker.

And here’s my dumpling dipping sauce:

Dipping Sauce Recipe

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Top with sliced scallion before serving.

That’s it! You’ve achieved veggie dumplings and dipping sauce and trust me, these are not only delicious, they’re a little addicting.

lola rugula easy veggie dumplings and dipping sauce

Again, you can make these with whatever veggies you love, so feel free to mix things up and add what you like.

Of course, you can also add tofu to these, if you’d like.  Shrimp is a delicious addition, too. Don’t be afraid to play with your food!

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Homemade Falafel

The first time I had falafel was over 20 years ago at Mamoun’s in New Haven, CT. Incredibly, I didn’t even really know what it was that first time I tried it, but friends insisted I would love it and I did.

Fried balls of ground chickpeas may not sound like much but when combined with garlic, onion, spices, and fresh herbs, they become tasty little fritters that you can serve as an appetizer or pile into a pita for a vegetarian sandwich.

I don’t eat very many fried foods but it’s the best way to go with falafel. I’ve tried baking them but they tend to dry out more in the oven and don’t get that beautiful mix of a crispy outside and tender inside.

Also, don’t make these with canned chickpeas – they have to be dried chickpeas to achieve the right texture. I soak mine for a full 24 hours, plus I refrigerate my uncooked falafel for a few hours so it does take a bit of planning ahead to make these.

lola rugula falafel and tahini sauce

Falafel RecipeI

This recipe makes about 65 falafel with a full pound of chickpeas. I can easily pile 10 into one sandwich, if that helps put the amount in persepective.

(Tahini sauce recipe follows, below)

  • 1 lb dried chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 large onion, cut into thirds
  • 3 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Canola, corn or other vegetable oil for frying
  1. Place chickpeas in a large bowl or pan and fill with cold water. Make sure they’ve covered by at least 4-5 inches of water.
  2. Let sit for 24 hours.
  3. Drain, rinse and drain again well in a colander.
  4. Place cumin seed and coriander seed in a small pan and toast over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing the seeds often.
  5. Put toasted seeds in food processor
  6. Add garlic, onion, scallions to the food processor
  7. Pulse until everything is finely chopped
  8. Add 1/2 of the chickpeas & blend well, stopping to scrape the sides and the bottom a few times. You want a nice fine meal but don’t want to puree it until everything’s liquified.
  9. Scrape everything out into a large bowl
  10. Add remaining whole chickpeas to food processor
  11. Add cilantro, parsley, salt, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and lemon juice to food processor
  12. Blend well, scraping sides and bottom a few times
  13. Transfer to the same large bowl with the other 1/2 of chickpea mixture
  14. Stir everything to combine it all very well
  15. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours
  16. Gently form golf ball size balls – try not to pack them too tightly, just tight enough to hold together well. Place finished balls on a large baking sheet or serving plate (I typically use 2 baking sheets) If you just cannot get the balls to hold together, add 2-3 tablespoons of flour to the mixture and mix well. I’ve never had to add flour to mine but a number of things could result in their lack of stickiness, such as old beans or not grinding your mixture enough.
  17. Fill a large skillet (my big cast iron works great for this) with about 2 inches of oil and heat over medium heat
  18. Pinch off a bit of a ball and put it in the oil to test the heat
  19. When the bit of batter sizzles, test one or two balls in the center of the pan
  20. When oil is ready, fry the balls for about 5-6 minutes in all,  turning about 3 minutes in, until nicely browned all the way around. I can typically fit about 10-12 into my large skillet and still be able to move them around easily.
  21. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, carefully remove cooked falafel and place on paper towels to drain.
  22. Repeat with remaining falafel

Tips:

  1. Don’t crowd the pan with too many at once
  2. Don’t try to turn them until they’ve been in the oil for a couple of minutes – this will assure that they hold together

Here’s a shot of some of my falafel pre-frying:

lola rugula how to make falafel

You can serve falafel a number of ways, such as an appetizer with a tahini sauce or hummus served alongside it. My favorite way (and the first way I ever had it) is piled into a pita with fresh veggies and tahini sauce.

Here’s how to make tahini sauce:

Tahini Sauce Recipe

  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup tahini – make sure it’s been stirred very, very well before using
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • Juice of 1 large lemon; about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In a food processor, blend garlic until finely minced
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well blended, about 2-3 minutes
  3. If the sauce is still a little thick, add 1 tablespoon of water and blend well again
  4. Transfer to a bowl and set aside

When I make falafel sandwiches, I may not make them in the traditional way but this is the way I love them; piled with falafel, onion, tomato, thin cucumber slices and tahini sauce.  I cut my falafel in half before adding them because they are easier to eat this way, plus I can stuff more of them in. 🙂 I can typically fit 8-10 falafel into one pita half.

lola rugula falafel sandwich

Making falafel at the holidays serves double duty since one batch makes so many. I can serve half of them as an appetizer at holiday gatherings, and then make sandwiches for me and my husband when it’s just the two of us. Works out perfectly!

These are also really good with tzatziki sauce and, when making sandwiches, don’t be shy with your topping. Add what you love and make it your own.

I hope you’re all enjoying your holidays!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Mini Vegetable Spring Rolls with Tahini Dipping Sauce

I’m a huge fan of spring rolls. They offer a delicious way to stuff lots of veggies into a small package and they can be paired with a number of different dipping sauces. This recipe is basically just an appetizer-size of my previous recipe on spring rolls. What I do here is cut the rice wrappers in half after dipping them in water, making them more finger food friendly, while still packing huge flavor and a nutritional punch.

I also want to share my tahini dipping sauce recipe with you, not just because it’s delicious but because tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seeds, is full of nutrients that are good for you.

lola rugula mini veggie spring rolls with tahini dipping sauce

Miniature Vegetable Spring Rolls with Tahini Dipping Sauce

While it’s hard to say exactly the quantity of veggies and noodles you’ll need for rolling these, this is approximately what I used for 24 small spring rolls. A lot will depend on how much you stuff into each one of them. 🙂

Try and slice your veggies thin and uniformly, keeping them about 2-3 inches long when possible. Don’t make yourself crazy here – they’re all getting stuffed into rolls, for Pete’s sake.

I like to make my dipping sauce ahead of the rolls, so it’s ready to go.

Tahini Dipping Sauce Recipe

  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup tahini – make sure it’s been stirred very, very well before using
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • Juice of 1 large lemon; about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In a food processor, blend garlic until finely minced.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well blended, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. If sauce is still a little thick, add a tablespoon of water and blend well again.
  4. Transfer to a small ramekin or serving bowl and set aside.

Miniature Vegetable and Rice Noodle Spring Rolls Recipe

  • 10 spring roll rice paper wrappers (I find these next to the tofu, sprouts and egg roll wrappers at my local store). These are typically refrigerated but if you bring them to room temperature about an hour before using them, you’ll find they’re less brittle and easier to work with.
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice noodles
  • 6 medium asparagus spears, thinly sliced
  • 10 snow peas, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1/2 medium sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced (I used an orange one here, but you can use yellow or red)
  • 3 scallions, trimmed to white and tender greens, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1/2 cup julienned zucchini
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumber that’s been peeled and seeds removed
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves

Directions:

  • Cook the rice noodles, run under cold water until cool. Drain very well and set aside. (I heat boiling water, add my noodles, cook about a minute and then set aside for 10 before draining and cooling)
  • In a small pan or microwave steamer, add asparagus and 1/4 of water, cover and steam about 2 minutes
  • Add sliced snow peas to asparagus and steam about 1 minute more.
  • Drain asparagus and snow peas, run under cold water and drain well. Set aside.
  • Fill a bowl or large plate (I’ve found that a large plate works best for this) with lukewarm water, for dipping your wrappers in.

Here’s where you need to have everything ready to go.

  • Have all of your veggies, noodles and cilantro ready to go
  • Have a large cutting board or serving platter ready, to place your finished rolls on
  • Have your plate of lukewarm water ready for dipping the spring roll wrappers
  • Have a sharp knife and cutting board ready to use solely for the spring rolls

Are you ready? Let make some spring rolls!

  1. Dip 1 spring roll wrapper in the plate or bowl of lukewarm water, swishing it around to make sure all of it’s moistened. Flip and do the same to the other side. Hold the wrapper above the plate for a couple of seconds, to let the excess water run off.
  2. Lay the dampened wrapper on a cutting board and, very carefully, using a very sharp knife, cut the wrapper in half.
  3. Add a few noodles and then a couple of each of the prepared veggies and a few cilantro leaves on top of the bottom third (towards you) of each of the 1/2 wrappers.
  4. Like you’re rolling a burrito, wrap one end around your fillings and use the end of the wrapper you’re holding to pull all of the fillings toward you tightly and then tighten your wrap around the filling. Roll once, fold up the round end and then continue rolling until complete.
  5. Place on serving platter and repeat with remaining rolls.

lola rugula mini vegetable spring rolls with tahini dipping sauce

Spring rolls are always best served fresh or at least within an hour or so. The wrappers tend to dry out and become crispy and weird again if left to sit too long. I’ve covered them with damp paper towels to extend their time and this works better than just leaving them to their own devices.

If you want to save yourself the trouble of wrapping these, turn them into a fun party appetizer by creating a spread and letting your friends roll their own. Maybe not so appropriate for a formal dinner but great for a casual get-together and definitely a conversation starter.

lola rugula spring rolls with tahini dipping sauce appetizer

Crunchy, antioxidant-packed, delicious and fun! If you’ve ever wondered how to make spring rolls, now you’re a pro. Don’t be discouraged if your first roll or two don’t turn out – this still happens to me sometimes and I make these pretty often. Just keep pushing on and you’ll get the hang of them in no time.

And of course, don’t be afraid to play with these – mix up your veggies and herbs for a new flavor every time you make them. The prep work in these is really most of the work, so it’s easy to have fun with changing them up.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes

I’ve been trying to photograph and post some of my super easy soup recipes lately, such as my Roasted Garlic and Veggie Soup and my Summer Garden Gazpacho. We love soup in my house and I love them because they can be easy to throw together while still being incredibly nutritious.

If you scan through my soup recipes, you might notice the word “roasted” used quite often. That’s because roasting your soup ingredients adds a nice boost of flavor and depth, and this recipe is another perfect example of this. This is a soup I’ve made for many moons and beyond, mostly because I’m seriously obsessed with garlic. Roasting garlic, as many of you know, smooths out its harsh edges and brings out a sweeter, smokier flavor. This is the case with roasting most things as long as you bring it to the “roasted” point and not the “burnt” point. When roasting, you just want to get everything to golden, with a hint of browning. Burning garlic, or any other ingredient, is only going to get you sharp, harsh, bitterness and that’s not what you’re looking for.

Okay, enough of my rant. Let’s make some soup. And stay tuned, because I’m going to give you a number of variations on how to make this creamier, smokier and more.

lola rugula roasted garlic and leek soup with new potatoes

roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 medium to large cloves of garlic, peeled and gently smashed, but left mostly whole
  • 2 medium leeks, white and tender greens only, cut into 1-inch pieces and rinsed well
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (optional – if you don’t want to use wine, use vegetable stock instead)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (again, optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 medium potatoes – preferably red or gold – peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces
  • turmeric and freshly-chopped parsley for serving (optional)

In a large stockpot, add olive oil and heat over medium heat for about a minute.

Add garlic and leeks and toss well with olive oil.

Cover, turn burner to lowest setting and let roast on the stovetop for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful to not let anything burn.

You’re looking to have the garlic and leeks soften completely and turn golden, with a few pieces start to gently brown. You’ll also start to notice some browning on the bottom of the pan.

lola rugula how to make roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes

When you’ve reached this point, add the wine and, using a large spoon, scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and stir well.

Add stock, black pepper, pepper flakes and thyme. Stir well.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the garlic and leeks are all fully soft and cooked through.

Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and then return to pan.

Add diced potatoes and simmer about 17-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat, spoon into bowls, sprinkle with a pinch of turmeric and parsley and serve.

lola rugula garlic leek and potato soup

This soup is a huge antioxidant boost to help protect you from all the nasty winter bugs that circulate this time of year. Adding a bit of turmeric just ups the antioxidant factor, but it’s totally optional.

Garlic is good for your heart, your blood and your gut, so it’s good to add it to your diet whenever you can. Roasting it removes the sharpness while still keeping its health benefits.

I promised you some variations on this and believe me, there are many.  Here are some of them:

  • If you want a creamier soup, add 1/2 cup of half and half or heavy cream
  • If you want a creamier soup without adding dairy, when the potatoes are done cooking , scoop out a cup or so and puree it and then add it back to the pan. Viola! Creamy soup without the dairy.
  • Want a smokier flavor? Crisp up some diced bacon when you’re browning the garlic and leeks and cook it with the soup.
  • If you prefer to keep the bacon crispy, cook it separately and sprinkle on top of soup before serving.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your food.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

roasted garlic and vegetable soup

This is one of my clean-out-the-fridge soups. I hate to see veggies go to waste and honestly, sometimes I just buy too many and end up with more than I know I’m going to use before they reach their death-by-lack-of-use phase.

This is super simple and can be used with a myriad of veggies, so use what you have and love. Roasting the vegetables first just gives this a nice, deep flavor…much more so than just tossing veggies in a pot and simmering them. (Not that I’m opposed to that, because it’s also a delicious way to make soup). And yes, this is loaded with roasted garlic so feel free to take it down a notch if you want.

roasted garlic and veggie soup recipe

  • 6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (Yukon Gold’s are great in this)
  • 1 medium leek, white and tender green, cleaned well and sliced
  • 2 cups small cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat oven to 400º

Place garlic and veggies on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss everything around to coat well.

Roast for 30 minutes, tossing everything around about halfway through the cooking time.

Remove from oven and transfer veggies to a stockpot.

Squeeze roasted garlic from their skins and add to pot.

Add stock and thyme and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend about 5 minutes until soup is smooth. Seriously, I do this for about 5 minutes, tilting the pan and really blending it. I like this smooth and creamy.

lola rugula roasted veggie soup

Easy, right?

This is so good with all kinds of veggies. Think squash, asparagus, zucchini, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts…don’t be afraid to just use what you have and love here. Make this soup yours and don’t be afraid to add different herbs. Rosemary, chives, tarragon…go with what you like.

Soups on…who’s ready?