Mole Rice

As soon as I saw this recipe at the Tasty Kitchen Blog I knew I had to try it – I mean it has chocolate and bacon, how could it be anything but amazing.

Like the Lucky Lentil Soup, its not the most photogenic meal but its so good that doesn’t matter. Plus its one of those recipes you can make all in one pan – a big plus for me, who usually dirties every pan in the house when trying a new recipe for the first time.

  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 strips bacon (chopped for quick cooking)
  • 1 bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups mushrooms (sliced or roughly chopped)
  • 3-ish cups broth
  • 6 ounces (small can) tomato paste
  • 1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate (chopped or as chips/morsels)
  • 1 cup rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Green onions and parsley for garnish (optional)

First you want to toast your spice mix. Add the oregano, cumin, allspice, and sesame seeds to a skillet and heat for 30-35 seconds over medium heat. Set your spices aside for now.

Cook your bacon until crispy and set that aside too.

In the bacon fat (of course), cook down the pepper, onion, and red pepper flakes until soft. Add the garlic toward the end so it doesn’t burn. Once the mix is all softened, add the mushrooms and cook  down until those are soft too.

Increase to high heat and add broth, tomato paste, chocolate, and your toasted spice mix. Bring to a boil. Add the uncooked rice and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 30-35 minutes. Keep an eye on it and stir as needed so it doesn’t stick. Add more broth if needed, I used about 3 cups over all adding more as it was absorbed by the rice.

When the rice is tender turn off the heat and let sit for a few minutes. Dish up and add your crispy bacon bits for savory, bacony, chocolaty goodness in a bowl.

On a side note the word mole (pronounced mo-lay) reminds me of my favorite fish, the Mola mola, or sunfish. I have a feeling my food and marine biology interest won’t cross paths too often so I wanted to share.

*Gluten Free, Dairy Free, could be Vegetarian and Vegan if you use vegetable broth and leave out the bacon.

*Photo from Daniel Botelho at National Geographic, via Facebook.

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Spinach Pesto

We eat quite a bit of pasta around the house – the perks of living with an Italian include awesome tomato sauce. When we need a break from the tomatoes though, this spinach pesto is another great pasta option.

I usually make as many servings as a container of baby spinach will allow and freeze the rest in per serving portions. The box of baby spinach in the salad section makes about five servings.

  • 1 cup packed baby spinach leaves (roughly chopped – easier to blend later)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese (parmesan or pecorino work well)
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Pepper to taste

First you want to toast your nuts. The original recipe from Family Fresh Cooking calls for walnuts and that is usually what I use. However, pecans work in a crunch too – if you discover that you actually have those on hand instead of those pesky walnuts you just knew you had in the cabinet when you went to the store. Doh!

Walnuts or pecans or a mix, lay the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. They will start to smell amazing and brown a bit, that is how you know they are done.

The rest is easy. Put everything in a food processor and blend together. I like to use my immersion blender for this step. I don’t add any extra salt, the pecorino adds enough flavor on that count for us but feel free to add salt to taste if you like.

Add to pasta or anything else for that matter and voila, dinner is served.

*Vegetarian, Gluten Free with Gluten Free pasta or if you’re not eating with pasta.

Lucky Lentil Soup

The first time I had lentil soup was New Year’s Day 2010. My partner turned me on to this comfort food that is said to bring good luck for the new year. Now its more of a comfort food to me than mashed potatoes. Plus its healthy.

If you want a totally vegetarian and vegan dish, just leave out the sausage and use vegetable broth. The pictures here are from a veggie version. If you want a chunkier soup, just add more vegetables.

I usually make a large batch (twice this one here) and freeze the leftovers.

  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 4-5 stalks celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Small can of tomato sauce (~8 oz)
  • 2 cups of brown lentils
  • 1 carton of broth
  • 2-3 Italian sausages (hot or sweet)
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Wash your lentils and set aside to strain.

Chop up the soup trifecta – carrots, celery, and onion. Add to a large pot and add enough olive oil so that all the vegetables shimmer. Sauté until the onions and celery look translucent and then add the garlic for a few minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomato sauce and mix in a good dash of oregano, salt, and pepper.

Add the lentils and broth. Bring the mix to a boil and add your sausage. We like to use the sweet but if you like more of a kick use the hot or a mix of both. Turn down the heat and simmer for three hours. The soup will thicken up a lot from start to finish. Take out the sausage toward the end, cut into smaller pieces, and return to the pot.

Final step – open up and warm your soul.

*Gluten Free, Dairy Free, can be Vegetarian and Vegan without sausage and by using vegetable broth

Tomato Quinoa Soup

There is just something about a dipping a grilled cheese sandwich into tomato soup that makes you smile. This tomato soup is no exception. The quinoa makes it hearty enough to stand on its own for a meal but we like it best when paired with a grilled cheese.

  • 1 finely chopped medium onion
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 large cans tomatoes (~28 oz each)
  • 2 cups broth
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, fresh is best
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Pecorino ramano cheese to garnish

Cook down the onions in olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the wine and simmer until mostly evaporated. Pour in tomatoes, broth, and basil. Bring the mix to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Now you have to puree the mix. I like to use an immersion blender for this. I find its safer and less messy since you can puree right in the pot of hot soup. Plus its one less thing to wash later.

Next add the water and quinoa. Simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the balsamic at the end, add grated cheese, and serve with your favorite grilled cheese sandwich. Mmm mmm.

**Vegetarian, Gluten Free without the sandwich, Dairy Free without the cheese, Vegan if you leave out the cheese