Lentils with Spinach & Soy Sausage, Artichoke with Mayo & Balsamic dip, and Peach Brown Betty

Food is a necessity in life, we all need to eat in order to live.  However, for many of us, the expression of “We live to eat” ring so true!  Just as food is a necessity, I believe cooking is a necessity.  I can’t just cook because I HAVE to cook.  Cooking is a form of inspiration and just like the movie “Like Water for Chocolate”, our emotions play a major role in the way we cook and the outcome.  When I don’t feel like cooking, or if my emotions are of anger, sadness, etc, my foods don’t taste as vibrant as it should.  Okay, I’m sounding  all hokey here, but really, think about it.  I don’t actually talk to my ingredients, as some people like to do when tending their plants, but I do kind of talk to them in my mind.  If that makes me a bit cuckoo, so be it!  All I’m saying is you’ve got to put love in your cooking and the food will appreciate you by rewarding you with tasty morsels!
Anyway, this is all to say that  my desire for cooking has been declining since the onset of this rising temperature… I’m thankful so far, once I started to prep for dinner, I got my excitement back, but I know this won’t last as we progress into the Summer months.  Since the temperature dipped somewhat, I decided to make this dish that’s really not a stew or a soup.  Rachel Ray calls these dishes “stoup”, so that’s what I’ll call them!

Lentils with Spinach & Soy Sausage: serves 4
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4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 quart vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 cup green or brown lentils
2 cups diced potatoes
8 ounces soy sausage links
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups fresh baby spinach (about 5 ounces)
salt and pepper
grated Cheddar or crumbled feta cheese or ricotta salata

In a soup pot, cook the garlic and coriander in the olive oil for a minute.  Add the broth, bay leaves, and lentils, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender and the lentils are soft, about 15 minutes. 
While the lentils and potatoes cook, cut the soy sausage into 1/2 inch thick rounds.  In a skillet on medium-low heat, cook the rounds in the olive oil, turning frequently, until browned, 5-10  minutes.  Rinse, drain, and chop the spinach. 
When the lentils and potatoes are done, add the sausage and spinach and stir until the spinach is just wilted but still bright green, about a minutes.  Add the salt and pepper to taste.  Serve topped with cheese. 

My opinion: We really really enjoyed this stoup!  Before starting this vegetarian lifestyle, I scorned at soy derived “meat” products.  Seriously, what is the use to pretending that it’s meat!  Since the recipe called for soy sausage, I got a pack at Trader Joe’s grudgingly…  You know, I actually enjoyed the taste of this soy sausage! I don’t think I’ll use it for breakfast, etc, but I’ll definitely use this sausage again when I make this stoup!  Loved the hearty yet light taste of this stoup, loved all the combination of lentils, potatoes, spinach, cheese, and yes, the soy sausage.  If you’re not into vegetarian stuff, you can easily substitute to the real meat sausage! I served this stoup with a slice of  herbed  focaccia (bought from LeBus). 

Artichoke with Mayo & Balsamic dip
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This is NOT from the Moosewood recipe!  I bought these artichokes while back ago and I had to use them.  I’ve used canned artichoke hearts for dips, etc, but yes, I have to admit that this was my very first time cooking the artichokes!  My dear cousin sent me a link to how to cook artichokes and I kind of followed what they said but adjusted the ingredients. 

2 artichokes
1 lemon
2 garlic
3 bay leaves
3-4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

In the pot big enough to hold a steamer basket, add enough water, sliced lemons, garlic (you can crush them slightly) and bay leaves. Put the steamer basket in. 
Cut the stems and clip the artichoke tips (can you see them in the picture?), and slice about 1/2 – 3/4 inch from the tip.  Rinse the artichokes and put the artichokes in the steamer basket. 
When the water boils, turn the heat to medium and steam the artichokes for about 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of artichokes). 
Prepare the dip by mixing the mayo and balsamic vinegar together. 
When the artichokes are done, cool them a little bit and dig in!  Just peel the petals from the outer layer first, dip the petal that was attached to the artichoke in the dip and scrape the meat with your teeth, soooo yummy!  When you’re almost done with the petals, you’ll see the fuzzy layer, just scrape that with a knife and underneath it is the “heart” of artichoke, eat that by dipping in the dip! 

Peach Brown Betty: serves 8
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16 ounces frozen sliced peaches (4 cups)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 egg
1/4 cup milk or half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 loaf of crusty bread such as Italian, French or challah (about 8 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Butter a 2 quart baking dish.
In a covered saucepan on low heat or in a microwave oven, heat the frozen peaches just until bubbling and beginning to give off juice.  When the peaches are hot, add the butter and stir to melt.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg well.  Whisk in the milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  Cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes (7-8 cups) and add to the bowl.  Add the hot peaches and melted butter to the bowl and toss well. 
Spread the Peach Brown Betty into the baking dish and sprinkle with the rest of the brown sugar.  Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

My opinion: This was so delicious!  I also added frozen blueberries to the mixture, and it must have brought a little bit more liquid.  My end product resembled the cross between a pudding and a crumble. I served it with vanilla ice cream and it was so very yummy!  Instead of using suggested breads, I used multi-grain bread and we quite liked it.  A nice finishing touch to the dinner we had 🙂

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