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I love lentils cooked any way – especially in soup.  The other day was a particularly busy day and on my way home from town I had one more stop to make at our local health food store.  Once in the door, something smelled heavenly (I was starving too as it was lunch time).

Our local health food store is owned by a lovely Iranian gentleman and his wife.  I asked him what smelled so good, and he pointed to a crock pot on the counter that was filled with Lentil Soup.  So then I asked him if it was gluten free.  He said all of his food is gluten free and this soup was also vegetarian and vegan.  Yayyyy gluten free soup!  He said that it was simple, good food.  Groceries in the bag, a take out bowl of soup in my other hand, time to go home.  Once the groceries were put away, I eagerly sat down to have the soup.  It was delicious!  Very simple flavors, in fact, I’m not even sure what kind of spices he used.

So today’s recipe was inspired by this lovely gentleman’s Lentil soup.  One thing is for sure:  I will definitely be going back to his store for more!

3/4 cup red lentils

3 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 large shallots, chopped

3 large minced garlic cloves

2 Tblsp. finely chopped ginger

1 tsp. Curry Powder – I used my favorite – Cartwrites

1 bay leaf

salt to taste

1  28 oz. can whole tomatoes (place a sieve over an 8 cup glass measuring cup. slice up the tomatoes, give the sieve a good stir a few times and drain all the liquid into the measuring cup. This gave me 2 1/2 cups tomato liquid, then add enough water to reach the 7 cup level)  For a thicker soup, add 1/2 cup less water.

3/4 cup diced celery including leaves

1 cup diced carrots – about 1/2 inch in size

3 medium leeks, chopped

Heat up a frying pan on low medium heat with the EVOO.  Add the chopped shallots, garlic, and ginger.  Saute for 5 minutes, then add in the curry powder and continue to saute 1 more minute.  Season with salt.

Transfer to a med/large crock pot and add all of the remaining ingredients stirring well.  Cook on high for 1 hour, then turn to low and cook for 8 more hours.

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On our recent trip away, we went to a restaurant that has been around for years and years.  On the menu’s back pages, they listed various meals that were made from yesteryear – one of them being a piping hot bowl of chili con carne served with a bun for $1.50.  Coffee was 10 cents a cup!  It did not say what year this was from – my guess would be the 60’s?  Now a days a small coffee at a cafe in my neck of the woods is $2.75 or higher.  Times have certainly changed as have the prices.  Mind you, this would also have been 50 plus years ago.  Yikes!

This particular chili con carne was made with smoky bacon, so here is my version:

3 slices thick cut natural bacon – diced

1  1/5 lbs. lean ground beef antibiotic free

4 chopped shallots

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 green pepper chopped (if you want heat use an Anaheim or jalapeno)

1  1/2 stalks celery with leaves chopped

2  1/2 Tblsp. chili powder (mine is not hot)

1/2 Tblsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. ground cumin

salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

156 ml.  can tomato paste (small can)

1/2 cup water

14 oz. can pinto beans drained and rinsed

28 oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped

Heat up a pan on medium heat, and brown the bacon.  Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel to absorb any excess fat and drain remaining renderings out of the pan.  Add the ground beef and brown breaking it up in the pan.  Once browned drain of all excess renderings.

Add the ground beef to a 3-4  quart size crock pot then add the bacon, the beans, shallots, garlic, green pepper, celery and all of the seasonings.  Mix well.  Add in the tomato paste, water, tomatoes & juice mix well and set on high.  Cook for 1 hr. on high then turn to low for 5 more hours.

My crock pot was a  2 litre size which was filled to the top – so I cooked on high for 3 hrs. and on low for 2 hrs.

Serve hot with grated cheddar cheese and a yummy gluten free bun.

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Every January we take a 1 week vacation to our lovely West Coast Gulf Island – Salt Spring Island, B.C. at a cabin on the lake. (next year we are planning 10 days!)

We arrived to a frozen tundra of 7 degrees below Celsius (very cold for our West Coast) This is a picture of the frozen lake with a fresh layer of snow.

We came prepared….oh yes we knew it would be cold, so we brought extra layers of warm clothing and were kept warm by the fireside each nite.

This was off of the deck of the cabin:

Despite the cold we had a wonderful time.  Each year, we end up in a different cabin.  Nothing fancy by any means, but cozy, warm, and as usual with the bare bones essentials.  As a result we always pack kitchen necessities from home:

I can not survive without a few of my favorite utensils and favorite pots too.  My sister bought me the “Copper Chef Pot” for Christmas.  Wow do I love this pot.  It is non stick, does not harm the environment, and you do not need any oil or butter in the pan for any cooking.  It can go from the stove top right into the oven – so handy.  Then, miraculously I found a Paderno Pot  (my favorite cook ware) – the perfect size for 2 at a second hand store for six bucks!  They both came with us to Salt Spring.

Now onto the food:

The first night on arrival we are always too hungry and end up forgetting to take any pictures.  We had lovely strip loin steaks, risotto, steamed veggies and had very happy tummies.

Can you believe we actually had Risotto from a box??  I can’t…and it was delicious, gluten free, all natural with no preservatives or any other junk.  No sponsorship here, just sharing something we luv.

I also brought a small crock pot with me to make Katie’s crock pot pork chops in a mushroom sauce. Please check out  Katie’s blog Thyme For Cooking for the original recipe. I have made a number of Katie’s recipes now…they never disappoint. It was delicious – again served with steamed vegetables and potatoes:

Day 3 was French Night.  Oh yes, we so indulge when it comes to food, wine and dessert when on vacation.  After all it is only once a year.  Plus there were enough leftovers on day 3 for the next days dinner – so good.

Next up:  Beef Bourguignon.  Now if you read my blog you will know I am a freak about vegetables of any kind in soup or stew and this meal was no exception.  Yes it began with shallots, mushrooms and of course red wine….this lovely French Wine:

Oh my goodness.  I always make a beef stew the same way:  brown the beef in small batches, add in sliced shallots, mushrooms sauteing until golden.  Then a good splash of wine.  For some reason, this was the best beef stew/bourguignon we have ever had.  Was it the wine?  Maybe.  I think if was my new Copper Chef Pot.  We will try this again once home to compare.

Here is the dessert we had many a night:  Organic English Toffee – the best ever and locally made on Salt Spring Island:

Day 5 we went out for dinner to our favorite local restaurant….and again forgot to take pictures – dang!  I had a lovely pesto prawn gluten free pasta dish with a most delicious Caesar Salad with Lemon Supreme (recipe for down the road…it was seriously good – you will think you have died and gone to heaven)  Dh had the gluten free Fettuccine with a garden salad….we were stuffed.

Day 6 A simple roast organic chicken breast with more of the same Risotto and steamed vegetables.  We also had a salad as well, however, all we had was mixed greens with tomatoes.  Having roasted some yellow beets, they went on top of the salad – it was perfect.

Day 7, on our last day,  we headed out for gluten free pizza – such a treat.  DH had the Hawaiian, mine was the artichoke sun dried tomato – Yummmm!

Although this picture does not do justice, the full moon this night was amazing shining on the frozen lake: (now minus 9 degrees Celsius – brrrrr)

Now for a little confession.  At Christmas time I very naively bought my dear husband a puzzle.  The thought behind this so called brilliant idea was that we might have some fun putting together a lovely puzzle while on vacation.  Three of our favorite things:  a library, a black cat, sitting on a Persian rug (we recently bought a large Persian rug for the living room)

Ahhh haaaa…painful….just downright painful.  Not only was this a 1000 piece puzzle ( you so need the room to put this together ) but the pieces are really small – this is a very advanced puzzle.  We are novices here…yes simple novices.  So…I have made the decision we either:

1)  quietly pack this puzzle away and give it to someone who has the skill we so lack, or

2)  we painfully spend the next 10 years trying to put it together.  The vote is still out – it has yet to be decided.

Dear Salt Spring Island:  We loved our week away and can’t wait to come back next year.  Maybe we will be brave enough to bring the cat in the library puzzle with us once again.  Wait…did I just say that?  Mercy, think I need to give my head a good shake!

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So, here it is:  Swiss style Italian Sausages.  I know….strange yes?  But it worked!  We had Italian sausages defrosted in the fridge and ready to go.  Well, that afternoon I had the most intense craving for Swiss Steak. I  have been wanting to make Swiss Steak for ages now and kept forgetting.  Swiss style Italian [...]

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This Christmas Pudding will now become a Christmas tradition – it turned out beautifully.  Rich, moist, packed full of flavor and served with a homemade Vanilla custard, it was the perfect dessert after turkey dinner.

RECAP:  To store the Christmas Pudding:

While the Christmas Pudding was made in November it was then wrapped very well in plastic [...]

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We have had a week of freezing temperatures, and now there is snow on the ground.  The weather reports say rain is coming, but in the meantime it has been mighty cold.   Time for comfort food.

This was an easy mid week meal, yet elegant enough to serve if you have company coming.  If you want [...]

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If there is one thing I love in this whole wide wide world that we live in- it is homemade soup.  Nothing soothes the soul more.  In winter time, soup will always be number 1 in this household, hence another soup recipe.

It seems to be all the rage these days to have homemade bone broth.  [...]

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It seems Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake is something you either love….. or not.  I have not had Christmas Pudding or Cake in many many many years, and I absolutely love them both.

(the above picture is not mine – I won’t be able to unveil my picture until Dec.24th so will keep everyone [...]

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Recently I had read an article on the health benefits of cashew nuts.  When cashew nuts are soaked and pureed into a luscious smooth mixture it is a perfect addition to soups of all kinds. Then I found this recipe from Sarah, of Making Thyme For Health.  Wow, this takes cream of mushroom soup to [...]

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We are in full swing with rainy season in our neck of the woods.  It is hard to believe that November is already here…where do the months slip by?  Well, with fall comes pumpkins, and squashes of all kinds.  Despite the rainy season, I always look forward to creating new squash dishes of any kind.  [...]