Beans...the magical fruit.


So, last week I embarked upon my own little blogging challenge (aren't there an array of "challenges" in the blogosphere right now??).  I've seen challenges in an array of different areas but this one deals with recipes and the infamous "cookbook" storage.

Yes, I am a lover of cookbooks.  Really I am a lover of books in every form.  I just like 'em around.  Honestly, if I hadn't married or had kids I would have been perfectly peachy to be surrounded by my book family.  Yes, they are my family.  No side comments.

I like to smell them, flip through their pages (you will never see this girl with a "Nook" or "Kindle" or any such thing- though those things are perfectly fine I just can't bring myself to partake).  No, I enjoy books' timeless ability to please and seduce, to engross and indulge, to mystify and intrigue.

And why not add cookbooks to this pasttime?  I don't see anything wrong with it.  Especially now that cookbooks are beginning to include fancy photos, personal anecdotes, and backstory to the recipes themselves.  Yes, cookbooks are becoming quite "readable" and not merely manuals to follow.

As a foodie, I've begun to collect them wherever I go: at library book sales, garage sales, travel destinations, and secondhand stores.  For some reason they call to me.  Beckon me.  They long to become a part of my family.  Kind of like when animal-lovers go to a pet store to pick up dog food and come home with three more pets?  Yeah, like that.  You know what I mean.  Don't hide.  This is a corporate support group, we are all friends.

Just say it after me:  "My name is _____ and I am a _____ addict."  It's okay, we understand.

But back to the premise.  Wow.  See?  You wouldn't indulge in this blog if it weren't for my tangents...we all love reading something!  Or maybe you are just irritated with me.  Don't answer that.

Anyway.  Thus my love for cookbooks, and my love for a particular food-maven (Ina Garten) has led me to select one of my favorite culinary anthologies (The Barefoot Contessa at Home) and try to make as many recipes as I can out of it, pending the chosen selection are suitable for my family's tastes, time, resources, and budget.  This week's recipe is certainly easy on the budget.

Last week I highlighted Ina's delightful Banana Bran Muffins, which have become a mainstay at my morning meal, mainly because a) they are tasty with a dollop of peanut butter and b) I am growing a baby and thus my digestive system needs some major help most days.  Don't dwell on the latter to much.

I beg you.

This week, I am showcasing another tried-and-true recipe, one that you might be turned off by at first simply for it's lack of carnivorous appeal- but oh does it fully satisfy.  Fully.  You will not even miss the meat.  However if you just. plain. need. it.  you can certainly add some bits of cooked ham, chicken, or even beef (not ground- I'd go with beef chunks).  But truly- it is hearty enough for even the manliest of men.  My husband laps it up.  And he is a very meat-and-potatoes kind of man.  In fact, he defines the term.  But not here- this is perfect all it's own.

The loot?  This stuff:

Lentils.  Particularly in stew-form.  So really, more like this:

Yeah.  Now don't immediately close your browser.  Seriously.  There have been many-a-lentil stews done wrong and this is not one of them.  It has full flavor, lacks in nothing, and gets better as it sits (so leftovers are a MUST).  It's delightful with homemade bread, or our choice, chapati (always a must with beany-stews 'round these parts), and will fill you up without additional sides to prepare.  It's that good.

Again- this blog exists to make you attempt new things, and show you how UN-intimidating foods truly are.  TRY IT.  You will be blown away by the flavor.

Here she is:

Ina's Lentil Stew

2 tsp olive oil
2 C large-diced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 C large-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 C dry lentils (please don't use canned)
2 C chicken stock (if you are vegetarian, feel free to substitute vegetable broth!)
2 tsp curry powder (don't leave this out!)
2 tsp dried (or fresh), crushed thyme leaves
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar


1. Heat the oil in a medium to large pot (not stockpot).  Add the onions and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the onions start to brown.  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Meanwhile, rinse the lentils.

2. To the pot add the tomatoes, lentils, chicken broth, curry, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender.  Check occasionally to be sure the liquid is still simmering.

3. Remove from heat and allow the lentils to sit covered for another 10 minutes.  Add the vinegar, season to taste, and serve hot with some fresh bread to lap it up!

Truly, you cannot go wrong with this hearty dish.  It is the perfect chilly winter warming meal.  Or, honestly, I've had it cold- I don't discriminate.  The longer those flavors mingle in your fridge or freezer, the merrier they taste the second, third, and twentieth time around.  It. just. gets. better.  Make sure you have a good chunky piece of bread to soak up all that beautiful broth.

It's lovely.

So long for now until next week's recipe (or maybe this week?)...only time will tell!


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