spiced yellow split pea soup + crispy shallots

yellow split pea soup with crispy shallots | what's cooking good looking
yellow split pea soup with crispy shallots | what's cooking good looking

Michael has jumped in and taken over a lot of the evening cooking for me recently, and it's such a treat. After a long day away from my home and kitchen, there is nothing better than to walk in to a home cooked meal. It's a total role reversal, and the highlight of my day right now.

Michael is an excellent cook, and he will be the first to tell you that he owes it all to his exceptional ability to follow a recipe. Some of the best cooks are the best recipes followers, but that is where him and I differ.  I am much more of an instinctual cook and a recipe rebel, where as he will follow a recipe so precisely, he freaks out over the smallest detail such as a lack of parsley for a garnish.  I love that about him, and I think he makes me a better cook by questioning me and making me think twice when I tell him he can still make the recipe even though he has no parsley on hand. 

Over dinner the other night, we were chatting about when it's best to let your instincts jump in. In the case of soups, I think that soups are that kind of dish where you need to let your instincts lead a little. The cut of the vegetable, the seasoning, the garnishes, the texture .... should all be thought about along the way and should be questioned if you feel that the recipe you're following might differ from the way you want the outcome to be. If you want a smooth soup, throw it into the blender ..... if you want less salt, then add less. You can always add more but you can never take away .... golden rule of soups, and cooking in general.  

This is the season where I (we) make a new soup pretty much weekly. This week, Michael made us a delicious lentil soup for dinner, which I then was able to pack up and take with me a few days out of the week. Last week, we made this yellow lentil soup .... and there were no leftovers because we ate it all in the first day. The downside to a delicious soup. I blame it on the crispy shallots. These very lightly fried crispy shallots add an addicting crunch to the soup. With some microgreens and a generous splash of coconut milk and I can eat this all day on any cold winter day. 

yellow split pea soup with crispy shallots | what's cooking good looking
yellow split pea soup with crispy shallots | what's cooking good looking
yellow split pea soup with crispy shallots | what's cooking good looking

spiced yellow split pea soup + crispy shallots

** Inspired and only slightly adapted from THIS recipe from Sara of Sprouted Kitchen

SEVES // 4

INGREDIENTS

1 medium sweet potato (or yam)
2 tablespoons of ghee or olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced
1 red chili, seeded and sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of sea salt
pepper
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoons of cumin
1 teaspoons of curry powder
a pinch of cayenne 
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
16 oz of yellow split peas, rinsed 
6 cups of broth (homemade vegetable broth, preferably)
a squeeze of 1/2 of a lemon

for the crispy shallots:
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
3 tablespoons of chickpea flour
salt + pepper
3 tablespoons of grapeseed (or another high-heat oil)

additional garnishes:
1/4 cup of (canned) coconut milk (full fat or light)
gomacio
a handful of micrograms

METHOD

Roast the sweet potato:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425º. Using a fork, poke a bunch of holes in the sweet potato, place it on a baking sheet, and roast for 30-40 minutes until it is soft.
  • When it's cool enough to handle, remove the sweet potato from the skin, measure out 1 cup, mash it well with a fork, and set it aside. Eat or save the skins and any extra sweet potato. 

Make the soup:

  • Heat the ghee or oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and red chili and cook until the onion is translucent (a couple of minutes). Then add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, curry, salt and pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. 
  • Then add the sweet potato flesh, the split peas, and the broth. Gently stir the mixture and then bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 45 minutes until the split peas are soft. Add the squeeze of lemon juice, stir, and then taste and adjust any seasoning necessary. 

While the soup is cooking, make the shallots:

  • On a plate, mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Then, add the shallots to the flour mixture and toss to coat the shallots with the flour. 
  • Line a small plate with paper towel and have it nearby. Then, in a small frying pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Test to make sure the oil is hot enough by adding a shallot and seeing if it sizzles. When the oil is ready, add all of the shallots. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, while shaking the pan to cook evenly (but do not disturb the shallots too much). Do this until they start to become brown (not too dark, because you don't want them to burn - this can happen quickly). Remove and set them on the plate with the paper towel.

Finish and assemble the soup:

  • If you like, you can puree the soup. I like to puree about half by spooning half into my vitamix, so that it leaves a little bit of texture, but you can either puree it all or none ... however you like your soup texture to be.  
  • Pour the soup into individual bowls, finish with a healthy drizzle of the coconut milk, top with a few crispy shallots, a handful of microgreens, and a sprinkle of gomacio. 

squash salad with lentils + pomegranates with a roasted garlic cashew cream

squash salad with lentils + pomegranates with a roasted garlic cashew cream  | what's cooking good looking
squash salad with lentils + pomegranates with a roasted garlic cashew cream

I could not have been happier to say goodbye to 2014. 2014 was a pretty trying year for me, and that is totally fine. Once in a while you need those years to kick things into perspective.

As you may have read from my instagram, my mom went back into the hospital the week before christmas. Just hours after we picked out our xmas tree and decorated our home with garlands and nutcrackers together, I was driving to the hospital, trailing an ambulance, for what I thought would be an overreaction on my part to a cold or flu that mom was coming down with. It turned out to be much more serious than that, and much more serious than her first time in the hospital. That was a vey hard day.  

I tried as hard as I could to forget that is was christmas all-together this year, to save myself from being a bah humbug in future years (keep in mind, I am a lover of xmas, so this was not easy). The holiday music and decorations everywhere made that pretty much impossible, so I decided that instead of forgetting it …. I was going to embrace it. The good things, the selfless giving and kindness parts. It was the first christmas in my adult life that I did not give gifts, and it gave me a totally different perspective on things, and life.  STUFF. Stuff that does not matter, and stuff that does matter. Living a life with purpose and a full heart, matters …… STUFF, does not matter. We both know that, but sometimes it takes an event like this to give an extra reminder. 

Be kind. Love with all of your heart. Do things matters, and don't worry about the things that don't. Always give it your all every single day, because if life changes, you will look back with little regret.  This is my new years revelation. Things that I hope to remind myself of much more often. 

You know what else matters? Food matters. It's what fuels us, it can keep us healthy (if consumed properly),  and it connects us to our loved ones as well as strangers. On xmas eve, we wanted to be close to the hospital and my mom, so Michael and I had a quiet dinner at a restaurant nearby. I don't know if it was because of the oh-so-many hours spent in a hospital, but that meal tasted soooo damn good. Maybe my levels of appreciation were heightened, I was finding it easier to appreciate  a lot more of the little things with my new perspective. We made a few friends at the bar seats around us, and by the end of the night, some carolers sang a few songs that we requested. It was perfect and magical in it's own quirky way.   

 

Now more than ever, I am trying to keep my health in check, starting with the food I am eating on a daily basis. This is not a new thing for me, or a new years resolution …. instead, I am just emphasizing the good things that I already do, so I do not fall into a hole of unhealthy habits - as anyone can very easily do when life gets stressful. My health is #1 right now, because I need to be healthy to be there for my mamma and the rest of our family.  Healthy should always be a priority … not just a new years resolution. 

So, I am going to start this year off by sharing a salad …… because salads are what I eat for lunch, and salads are what I eat to keep healthy in check.  And this one happens to be extra delicious too. 

Happiest of new years to you friends. I am sure this one will be wonderful, and healthy one for you and me. 

squash salad with lentils + pomegranates with a roasted garlic cashew cream | what's cooking good looking
squash salad with lentils + pomegranates with a roasted garlic cashew cream | what's cooking good looking
squash salad with lentils + pomegranates with a roasted garlic cashew cream | what's cooking good looking

squash salad with lentils + pomegranates with a roasted garlic cashew cream 

SERVES // 2

INGREDIENTS

2 delecata squashes (or 1 acorn or 1 small butternut squash), de-seeded and sliced or cubed
a couple tablespoons of olive oil
a sprinkle of herbs de provence
salt + pepper

1/2 cup of french green lentils, rinced
2 cups of water

1 pomegranate, seeds removed

5-6 kale leaves, ribs removed and finely chopped
about 1/2 cup of purple cabbage, finely chopped

for the roasted garlic cashew cream:
1 head of garlic
1/2 cup of cashews (soaked for about 3 hours, or as long as you can)
1/4+ cup of water
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of brags amino

METHOD

Roast the squash + garlic:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400º. 
  • Place the squash onto a roasted pan and toss with the olive oil, herbs de provence, salt, and pepper. 
  • Prepare the roasted garlic by slicing off the top (the pointy part opposite the root) just enough to expose the ends of the garlic cloves. Then, wrap the garlic in a small piece of parchment and then wrap it all up with a piece of foil. Place on the same pan as the squash and roast it all in the oven. 
  • Roast for about 30 minutes then check both the squash and the garlic, They will likely have slightly different cook times (garlic will likely take a little longer) so remove them accordingly. The squash should be browned around the edges and the garlic cloves should be very soft. 

While they are roasting, cook the lentils and prep the kale and cabbage:

  • Place the lentils and waters in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. You want the lentils to be tender, but still have a bite to them. Drain and rinse. 
  • Place the chopped kale and cabbage in a salad serving bowl and set aside. 

When the garlic is done, make the cashew cream:

  • Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, then remove the cloves from the skin and place them into a blender or food processor with the remaining ingredients for the dressing. Run the blender on high until you have a smooth consistency. If you need to, add more water little by little until you have the consistency you desire (but be careful you do not add too much water), you want it to have some thickness to it. 

Assemble the salad:

  • Start by dressing and massaging the greens. Pour a little less than half of the cashew cream over the kale and cabbage, and massage it in using your fingers. Sprinkle the pomegranates on top and finish with the squash. Drizzle the last bit of the cashew cream over top and serve immediately. 

 

dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt

dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking

I am not a huge cookie person, and I hate to admit this, but I don't get into the whole holiday cookie baking thing. No cookie swapping for me. Don't get me wrong, I love a single good cookie every once and a while, but a plate of cookies hanging around during the holidays…...meh. Not my thing.  

Also, I  am not much of a popcorn person. Wait a second. I take that back. As soon as I sit down with a bowl of popcorn in from of me, then it's like .... ohhhhh, yes ....I get it. This stuff is crazy addicting. I can't stop shoveling popcorn into my face. 

I assume that you are well aware that the microwave popcorn that you and I grew up on, and that was a staple on saturday evenings in our home (with a movie, of course), is no longer a "good for you" snack. Microwave popcorn, which was once thought to be the perfect solution to low calorie binge snacking, is actually evil evil stuff. In fact, anything that goes in the microwave should probably not go into your body, but that is a long discussion for another day. I ditched the microwave years ago, and to be perfectly honest, I never miss it. The oven and stovetop can do exactly what the microwave does, and they do it better. So today, we are popping our popcorn on the stovetop, the old old fashioned way, and making this chocolate covered popcorn party mix. My alternative to the cookie plate this holiday season. 

 

I like to think of this popcorn party mix as something fun that you can put out in little bowls at a holiday party, or at the end of a dinner party. You could even take some ice cream out of the freezer and serve it with this popcorn. I was also thinking of handing out this popcorn in mason jars as gifts for over the holidays. I might even take it one step further and gift it with an extra side of the rosemary sea salt. A martha-stewart-ey homemade gift, that is  easy and impressive. Who doesn't love getting a homemade gift? You can even do it last minute, the night before….. solving any last minute gift idea panics. You know that is what I will be doing. 

dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking

 

dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt

MAKES several servings

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon of olive oil 
1/3 cup popcorn kernels 
1 cup of almonds
1 cup of pumpkin seeds
5 oz of dark chocolate (2 regular sized chocolate bars), broken up into small squares 

for the rosemary sea salt:
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 large sprig of rosemary (plus a little more for sprinkling over the top)

METHOD

Make the rosemary salt:

  • Using a mortar and pestle, grind the salt and rosemary. 
  • Then, transfer the salt mixture to a cutting board and mince the rosemary into the salt. Set aside while you make the popcorn. 

Pop the popcorn, and toast the nuts and seeds:

  • In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add a couple of kernels and cover. When the kernels pop, add the remaining kernels to the pot, cover, and give it a good shake to distribute. 
  • Once the kernels start to pop, wait until the popping slows down to 2-3 second between each pop. That's when you know it's done. Remove it from the heat immediately, and transfer the popped popcorn to a large mixing bowl. 
  • While the popcorn is popping, you can toast the nuts and seeds in a dry skillet for a couple of minutes.  Then transfer them to the same large mixing bowl as the popcorn. 

Melt the chocolate and coat the popcorn  party mix:

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Using a double broiler, melt the chocolate while stirring constantly. 
  • When the chocolate has completely melted, pour it over the popcorn mixture, and stir it to coat evenly. 
  • Pour the mixture out onto the parchment lined baking sheet and spread it out evenly. Place it in the fridge for about 15 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden, and the you can serve. 
  • This will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for at least a week (maybe more). You can also divide the mixture into individual mason jars are hand them out as gifts or use them as individual servings. 

 

za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | lemongrass rice | miso tahini

za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking

Since we are being bombarded right now with holiday shopping, shenanigans, and sweet recipes .... I am trying to take a step back and chill a bit before the real holiday countdown beings.  In other words, I am easing into the holiday spirit this year. So far, my only holiday purchase (and decoration) has been a pine tree scented candle.  I am hoping the smells from this candle will put me into the holiday spirit, and I will then be able to purchase a xmas tree and do some gift shopping. If you are one of those people who finish everything the day after thanksgiving, then just reading this might give you anxiety …. but this year I am taking my time and doing this last minute, and I am more than ok with that. I hope you are too. 

So .... since I am in pre-holiday chill mode, that means that I am keeping things pretty simple for the next two weeks before our house is filled with family, presents, and cookie dough. That means, making sure I fit in some "me" time at yoga, eating healthy, and simplifying. Bowls of delicious food cover eating healthy and simplifying. Bowls of delicious food are pretty much the answer to most things in life. All of the best casual meals at home come in one bowl. 

The beauty of the bowl meal is that you can throw in anything that is in your fridge (that makes sense, of course) and it's ALL good. You can have a delicious meal that usually requires not much more than a roasting pan …. and possibly a pot and a small bowl if you are feeling ambitious. Minimizing cooking and cleaning up in the weeks before the holidays is what I am all about, so bowls of food are the answer to that. Eating healthy in the days before I gorge on cookies and extra helpings of potatoes is what I am all about, so bowls of food are the answer to that. The night before my house fills up with family, I want to sit in front of the TV all night and watch a marathon of Scandal ….a bowl of food on the couch is the answer to that.  So as you can see …. BOWLS OF FOOD ARE THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.

 

And ….. so you can stop worrying, I am going to start my xmas shopping immediately after I send this suggested bowl of food recipe (that I've been loving so much) off to you. 

za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking

za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas |  lemongrass rice  |  miso tahini 

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

for the chickpeas:
2 cups of cooked chickpeas 
1 tablespoon of za'atar
a pinch of cayenne
a couple of pinches of paprika
salt + pepper
a generous drizzle of olive oil

for the butternut squash:
1 small - medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
1 tablespoon of za'atar
a pinch of cayenne
a couple of pinches of paprika
salt + pepper
a generous drizzle of olive oil

for the tahini:
1/4 cup of tahini 
1 teaspoon of miso
1/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of coriander
black pepper

for the rice:
1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil
1 small onion, diced
1 cup of basmati (long grain) rice
2 cups of water
2 lemongrass sticks
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Toppings: 1 green onion, minced + a sprinkle of gomacio

METHOD

Roast the chickpeas and the squash:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400º. 
  • Place the chickpeas onto a baking sheet with the spices and olive oil. You don't have to be exact, I would suggest being generous. Toss to coat the chickpeas evenly and place them into the oven, first, before you prepare the squash. Plan to cook the chickpeas for 30-40 minutes, you want them to be brown and crispy, but be careful not to burn. Check them occasionally. 
  • Then, prepare the squash in the same manner by placing the squash onto a baking sheet and tossing with the olive oil and spices. Bake the squash for 30-40 minutes (I like to put this in second because the squash will be nice and warm when everything else is ready). Feel free to time this however you like. 

While the baking is happening, make the rice and tahini:

  • To make the rice, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onions until they are soft (2-3 minutes). Then add the rice, water, lemongrass, and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes (you can also check the instructions on your rice package for cooking time).  When the rice is done cooking, remove the lemongrass and allow it to sit, covered, for at least 10 minutes, or until you are ready to serve. 
  • Then, to make the tahini, place the tahini in a small bowl. Then, in a separate small bowl, whisk together the miso and water. Add the miso and water mixture to the tahini and whisk until everything is combined. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk again until combined. Taste and adjust any seasoning you feel necessary. 

Assemble bowls + enjoy:

  • Place the rice at the bottom, then add a spoonful or two of the chickpeas and butternut squash and drizzle with the miso tahini. Finish with the minced green onion + gomacio.  
  • If you have any leftover, it's best to store the rice, tahini, and squash/chickpeas separately in air-tight containers in the fridge. 

turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk

turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking
turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking

Between now and all the holiday partying, we have a lot of in-between days to psych our appetites up for the inevitable holiday binging. It's those in-between days that are what keep us going, and feeling normal (and not like UG). It's a marathon, friends, not a sprint.  

After a night or two (or five) of eating and drinking, I like to reset with a smoothie, salad, soup, and generally lighter fare for as many days possible, until I have to do it all over again. Food that makes me feel light, happy, and healthy. A few days of happy food and I am game ON for another night that involves eggnog, cookies, and pie. On those reset mornings, I usually start off with a hot water with lemon and turmeric, and a green smoothie. This time I wanted to switch it up and put the turmeric into my smoothie, because it's always good to switch up the smoothie color, and we all can use more bright yellow on these cold, gray days. 

Turmeric is hands down my favorite spice. Sometime you hear about super-foods that are meant to do this or that …. sometimes I buy into it, sometimes I feel like it is just a small part of the bigger picture of living an overall, healthy lifestyle. But turermic is one of those magical ingredients that after incorporating it daily for a few days (with that healthy living to back it up), I can actually feel certain aches go away, and my body actually starts to feel a bit lighter. It truly does work wonders, and adding it to a smoothie makes it that much easier to incorporate it often. 

Sooo, hemp milk …. it's like almond milk, but 10 times easier to make. It does not require soaking, and you can get away with straining it through a fine mesh strainer if you do not have a nut milk bag handy. It's always good to switch up your nut and seed milks so that you're not drinking the same kind all of the time. If you're not already making hemp seed milk, get on that train. Hemp milk is loaded with omega-3s and will feed your inner-hippy soul. 

 

At first, you might think this is one of those smoothies you have to guzzle down and tell yourself "it's all for health". Don't worry, I wouldn't do that to you. This is one of those smoothies that you will drink up, and run back to the blender for seconds. I made this for a few testers, and after I placed the glass down in front of them, myself included, no one said a word until a few gulps were taken. Then we all chimed in with a big …… woahhhh. This smoothie is soooo good. The spice give it an earthy-ness that grounds the sweetness of the banana, and makes it totally crave-able. You are going to be sad when the hemp milk runs out, but you know that just means you will have to make some more. 

turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking
turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking
turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking
turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking

turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk 
 

As with most smoothies, feel free to play around with the ingredients, depending on what you have available to you. If you do not have the extra few minutes it takes to make the homemade hemp milk, any unsweetened nut or seed milk will work as a substitute. 

MAKES
1 smoothie (recipe and easily be doubled, etc - depending on how many you want to make)
and 3 servings (cups) of hemp milk

INGREDEINTS

for the hemp milk:
1 cup of hemp seeds
3 cups of filtered water
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla exract
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1-2 dates, pitted and diced (optional)

for the smoothie:
1 cup of hemp milk
1 banana
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric 
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
a small pinch of cinnamon

METHOD

Make the hemp milk:

  • Place the hemp seeds and filtered water into a high powered blender and blend on high until the hemp seeds are blended (liquified). 
  • Pour the milk through a fine mesh strainer or nut milk bag into a bowl, and squeeze or push the milk through. Set aside or discard the leftover pulp, and pour the milk back into the blender along with the rest of the ingredients: salt, vanilla, coconut oil, and dates (if using), and blend until everything is combined. Transfer the milk to a container for storing (I like to use a glass milk jar). 

Then, make the smoothie:

  • Add the ingredients for the smoothie to the blender: 1 cup of the hemp milk, banana, turermic, coconut oil, and cinnamon. Blend on high until smooth. If you like, add a couple of ice cubes and blend again until smooth. Serve immediately. 

Storing notes:

  • The smoothie will keep for 1 day in an air-tight container in the fridge, or you can freeze it for about 2 months. The hemp milk will keep for 2-3 days in an air-tight container in the fridge. What I like to do is make the hemp milk, and then make a smoothie fresh every morning until the hemp milk is gone. Enjoy.