Brr! It is cold today. I stood in the parking lot after work and the wind just whipped through me. The sun was shining brightly and gave the appearance of a warm welcome when I looked out my office window – how disappointed I was. If only I had a soup like this to come home to. This is a meal I enjoyed last weekend with a close friend. She is an adventuresome eater so I know that this soup filled with an oddball combo of ingredients like apricots, eggplant, and lentils would not be unwelcome.
The flavors are so perfect and exotic while also being homey and hearty. A dollop of yogurt adds nice contrast but is totally not necessary. This soup was a great break from my usual vegetarian main courses in the winter.
Armenian Lentil Soup (Epicurious via Peanut Butter Runner)
- 1 cup dried green lentils
- 5 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 medium eggplant, diced
- 1 (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 bell pepper (red, green or yellow), diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice or ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
- Chopped parsley, cilantro or mint to garnish
- plain yogurt
- Rinse lentils in a colander and place them in a large soup pot.
- Add the broth and the apricots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent.
- Add all remaining ingredients except the herbs. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
- Then add the vegetable mixture to the lentils and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
- If the soup becomes too thick during the cooking process you can add more broth as needed. Salt to taste.
- Ladle into bowls, top with yogurt, if desired, or with chopped parsley, cilantro or mint for garnish.
My mom went through a cooking strike for quite a few years when I was a teenager. And who could blame her? My mom never was particularly talented at cooking but she certainly tried to get dinner on the table for her family. And when she finally set the food in front of us she heard a litany of complaining (and honestly I don’t think the food was that bad…we were just being brats).
So, she did what any strong woman would do. She said she wouldn’t cook anymore, loaded the freezer up with prepared meals, loaded the pantry with ingredients for us to cook things ourselves, and let us fend for ourselves.
One of my favorite ready-made dinners was Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pies. Nowadays, I am the first to say I am not a pot pie connoisseur as it is not a dish that I am particularly drawn to. I’ll eat it when served but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to prepare it. Until now. It seemed so labor intensive for what often appeared to be slop-on-a-plate. But this recipe turned me around. This is a meal you crave. And Marie’s frozen pot pie doesn’t hold a candle to this homemade version.
Favorite Chicken Pot Pie (adapted from Taste of Home)
This recipe makes 2 pot pies. Freezing instructions are listed below the recipe.
- 1-3/4 cups sliced carrots
- 1 cup butter, cubed
- 2/3 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1-1/2 cups milk
- 4 cups cubed cooked chicken
- 1.5 cup frozen peas
- 1.5 cup frozen corn
- 2 packages (14.1 ounces each) refrigerated pie pastry (or your favorite homemade version)
- Preheat oven to 425°. Place carrots in a large saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, covered, 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender; drain.
- In a large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender.
- Stir in flour and seasonings until blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in chicken, peas, corn; remove from heat.
- Unroll a pastry sheet into each of two 9-in. pie plates; trim even with rims. Add chicken mixture. Unroll remaining pastry; place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut slits in tops.
- Bake 35-40 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.
- Yield: 2 potpies (8 servings each).
- Freeze option: Cover and freeze unbaked pies. To use, remove from freezer 30 minutes before baking (do not thaw). Preheat oven to 425°. Place pies on baking sheets; cover edges loosely with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven setting to 350°; bake 70-80 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and a thermometer inserted in center reads 165°.
I don’t love salads in the winter time. Out of season produce just isn’t appealing and neither is the idea that it was shipped from thousands of miles away to get to my home. My husband, on the other hand, pretty much requests “big salads” as a dinner each and every week. When I saw this recipe, which met his request without being filled with bland, watery cucumbers and spongy pink tomatoes I figured I’d break my self-imposed ban on salads.
I just love dried apricots. And I love chick peas and almonds. This salad would be great without the addition of the chicken, too. We had it with chicken and that made it all the more filling. If you skip the chicken, just double the chick peas.
If you look at my picture you’ll see that instead of almonds as dictated by the recipe, my salad is sporting pecans. I had a lovely batch of almonds toasting in the toaster oven. I turned off the oven, sat down to nurse the baby, and the residual heat burned the nuts to a crisp. The pecans were tasty but I am sure almonds would be better, so that’s what is reflected below in the recipe.
The end result was fantastic. The leftovers were great, too. I kept the lettuce separate from the rest of the toppings and just combined when it was time to serve. Nice, healthy, tasty, and a break from the usual salad rut!
Moroccan Chicken Salad with Chickpeas and Apricots (adapted from The Make Ahead Cook; seen on Annie’s Eats)
- 1½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper
- ½-¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp. garam masala
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- Pinch smoked paprika
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1½ cups (1 15 oz. can) cooked chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 shallot, sliced thinly
- ¾ cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
- 2 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup whole toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tbsp. of the olive oil until shimmering.
- Add the chicken to the pan cook until brown, about 5-6 minutes.
- Flip chicken over, add the water to the pan, and cover with a lid.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Slice into ½-inch thick slices on a bias. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with the garam masala, coriander, and paprika in a liquid measuring cup. Microwave for about 30 seconds until hot and fragrant. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, the honey, ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Whisking constantly, stream in the remaining oil.
- In a large bowl, combine cooled chicken, chickpeas, shallot, apricots, parsley and half of the dressing, toss.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into the dressing and whisk well.
- In a separate bowl, combine the romaine and almonds. Toss to mix well.
- When ready to serve, drizzle some of the dressing over the greens and toss to coat.
- Top with the chicken and chickpea mixture.