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Lentil mac and cheese with mushrooms and thyme

If you’re a mac and cheese purist, this post is likely going to make you very sad.  And if I’m being honest, I didn’t really know what to call this dish, but “lentil mac and cheese with mushrooms and thyme” sounded decidedly better than “baked pasta with some lentils, ricotta, parmesan, maybe a pinch of red pepper flakes, you know…”  

lentil mac and cheese

And a bit more honesty: I fully intended to sprinkle this ol’ thing with bread crumbs before putting it in the oven, but I got distracted by a French bulldog running through the kitchen with what appeared to be a pair of my underwear.  Life is rich these days.

When we first moved to Southie, we lived across the street from a now extinct restaurant that had the best seasonal menus.  And we’d know… because we ate there, like, three times a week.  That first fall/winter, there was a baked macaroni with mushrooms on the menu, and it changed my life.  Granted, it was a relatively minor life change (I thought I hated mushrooms, turns out… I didn’t).  Eight years later, I’m daydreaming about that pasta and snacking on leftover ‘shrooms.  Or whatever.

Let’s get down to business.

LENTIL MAC AND CHEESE WITH MUSHROOMS + THYME

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb your choice of pasta (roughly half a regular box) – I used rigatoni but I think I might try Banza shells next time, just for the heck of it.
  • 1 c dry lentils (I used this medley from Daily Pantry)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Approx. 2 tsp fresh thyme (I used 4-5 sprigs of lemon thyme from our deck garden)
  • 2 c cremini mushrooms (aka baby Portobello), cleaned and sliced
  • Pinch each of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 1 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • Optional-ish: 1/4 c breadcrumbs, additional thyme for garnish
lentil mac and cheese

…time for some thyme

Instructions:

  1. Position your oven racks to accommodate your dutch oven/casserole pan
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F
  3. Cook lentils per instructions (I usually do 1 part lentils/2 parts water, boil for 2 minutes and simmer for 10) and cook pasta until just al dente
  4. Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or similar pot (this is the one I have, currently on sale for $50), warm butter and sauté onions until translucent 
  5. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or two
  6. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, along with mushrooms and thyme
  7. Sauté mushrooms for 10-15 minutes, stirring often
  8. Once cooked, add lentils and pasta to the mushroom mix, and combine
  9. Add shredded parmesan and gently fold in ricotta cheese, a teaspoon at a time (placing it, rather than mixing it in)
  10. Top with breadcrumbs, if desired (and you’re not distracted)
  11. Bake for 20 minutes
  12. Allow to cool for several minutes before serving

Notes: It tastes better than it looks… you’ll need to trust me on this one.  Lentils do not photograph well… You can easily adapt this recipe for those with gluten allergies, by using gluten free pasta and breadcrumbs (both readily available these days).  I know less than zero about vegan cheeses (I believe Kite Hill makes an almond milk ricotta?), but I dare say this pasta with lentils could hold its own without the parmesan and ricotta.  

lentil mac and cheese

This makes for a hearty vegetarian dinner and would be perfect for sharing during football games or over the holidays.  And I can attest to the leftovers being just as good as the first serving.

Okay.  Back to daydreaming and mushrooms laundry and getting the car inspected I go.

SHOP THIS POST:

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the one (or two, or nine) really great meal you still find yourself thinking about?

 

Sweet potato toast with a kick.

When it comes to trends (and cool things, in general), I’m rarely on time.  I think sweet potato toast reached its peak coolness this summer, so it’s fitting I just popped my first batch out of the toaster in mid-October.  We’ll get to that in a second.  Let’s relish in my uncoolness a bit longer.

sweet potato toast

I was the last to read the first Harry Potter book and never got around to reading the others.  I did, however, watch all of the movies while icing my knees after marathon training runs.  I’m still not really clear on how things end.  Like, did Harry turn into a baby snake under a bench at a train station?  I realize this entire paragraph will horrify many of you.  I just can’t get with imaginary stuff.

Sun In: No.  The Titanic:  Never saw it.  Snapchat:  Still mostly a mystery to me.  Crop tops: I think everyone’s okay with me skipping that phase (a sales girl at Nordstrom did recommend I try one on a few months ago… I blessed her with all the power my postpartum body could muster).  

In some cases (see Sun In and Titanic), I wear my uncoolness like a badge of (midriff covering) honor.  But in other cases, I’m disappointed I didn’t catch on sooner.  Such is the case with the aforementioned sweet potato toast.  It’s really delicious.  And easy.  And gluten free. And all you need is a sweet potato.  And a toaster.  Ok, and a knife.

SWEET POTATO TOAST WITH A KICK

sweet potato toast

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • A toaster (I guess that’s less ingredient and more equipment, but whatev)

Suggested toppings:

  • 1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
  • Shredded cheese
  • Black beans
  • Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • Pico de gallo 
  • Hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Wash sweet potato and slice lengthwise evenly (each slice should be approximately 1/4 inch wide)
  2. Arrange sweet potato slices in your toaster so that they don’t overlap; toast on the highest setting until slightly browned (this took about 10 minutes for me)
  3. Add toppings as you wish + enjoy

I finished my sweet potato toasts off with a bit of Poor Devil Pepper Co.’s Cajun Widow lacto fermented hot sauce, recently sent to me by my friends at Small Batch Daily.  This stuff is the real deal (read: hot) and added the perfect cajun kick.  It’s also organic, raw, probiotic and decidedly cool.  For once, I feel sort of ahead of the curve.  Maybe?

sweet potato toast

If you’re looking for similarly cool food items, I definitely recommend checking out Small Batch Daily’s shoppable Instagram feed (@smallbatchdaily). They release new small batch finds each Monday and Wednesday.  You can learn more by visiting their website.

Okay.  But seriously.  What happens to Harry?

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately?

Today: Heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing.

In my world, every Monday is Meatless Monday.  Same goes for, like… Tuesdays and Wednesdays, too.  In my home, however, the vegetarians no longer outnumber the carnivores.  Grace had her first few bites of steak last week, so… this cheese vegetarian stands alone.  

Delicious vegetarian  and gluten free recipe: Heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing.

But that’s neither here nor there.  After a few days of being on vacation (we had a lovely time, but please don’t be too jealous… it’s presently warmer and less rainy in Boston than it was in Fort Lauderdale last week), we’re settling back into our routines but I am continuing to eat like I’m on vacation.  I had the best salad at a little beachside restaurant last week and couldn’t wait to make my own version when we got home.  Salad first, unpack later.

You can use just about any base for this salad.  I used red lentils, but you might consider pearled couscous, quinoa or farro (which was part of the original dish, and although its not gluten free, it contains less gluten than wheat and is easier to digest, at least for this body).  As for the dressing, it’s probably worth noting that most green goddess recipes include anchovies or anchovy paste.  This one does not.  #savethefishes.  Just kidding.  Kind of.

Also.  Let’s be serious.  It’s just a salad.  A delicious one, yes.  But you probably don’t need to measure your ingredients.

Delicious vegetarian and gluten free recipe: heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing

Heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing

Serves two

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of red lentils, cooked (Quick and easy: Rinse and dry lentils, bring to boil in 2.5 cups of water, turn down for what heat and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes)
  • 4 cups of baby arugula
  • 2 cups of heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup of feta cheese

Directions:

  1. Allow lentils to cool slightly, and top with arugula and tomatoes.
  2. Add a bit of feta cheese and drizzle with green goddess dressing.
  3. Yes.  This is the most obvious recipe of all time.

Delicious vegetarian and gluten free recipe: heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing.

Vegetarian green goddess dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 TSP fresh dill
  • 1 TSP chives, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Juice from half a lemon (more, if needed)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Add garlic and herbs to your blender or food processor and blend until finely processed.
  2. Add yogurt, sour cream and lemon juice (a little at a time) and blend.
  3. Taste and season, as needed.
  4. Pretend you’re at a beachside restaurant.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your favorite vacation meal?  Do you go meatless on Mondays (or every other day that end in a ‘y’)?

Today: The five minute, vegetarian turkey.

Alternate title: I crack myself up.

The five minute, vegetarian turkey

While I love giving thanks, I don’t love the whole turkey thing.  Mashed potatoes?  That’s another story.

I found the perfect vegetarian turkey this year, one that doesn’t  require any oven space and only takes five minutes to prepare.  And if you’re anything like me, four of those five minutes will be spent laughing your tail feathers off.

Directions:

  1. Open the can.
  2. Inflate the bird.
  3. Serve at room temperature.  Or, like… whatever.

If my hilarious, hilarious prank goes according to plan, by the time you read this, I will have served an inflatable turkey to my family.  Details to follow.

Also On Tap for Today:

Pranksters, please share your best recipe for hilarity.