Decadent dessert is a crowd pleaser whether you’re strolling into a potluck or posting mouth watering photos online. The camera loves them and so do my friends. My waistline? Not so much. You already know you don’t need me to preach the importance of moderation. Having said all that, what I feed myself on a daily basis ought to be nutritious and appetizing. They may not draw oooh’s and aaah’s but this is the type of cooking that makes the occasional decadence that much more satisfying.
I’m pretty exhausted these days from a demanding work and training schedule. In exactly a month from today I’ll be racing in Germany representing Canada. Race preparation is at fever pitch with travel logistics falling into place and daily workout taking highest priority in my schedule. Between the moment I get home and bedtime, I am so spent that only the most urgent matters catch my attention: eat, shower, and unwind. Cooking and baking normally help me relax mentally but I just cannot muster enough energy to make anything complicated. Dishes that require minimal hands-on time or can be prepared in stages are my lifesaver these days. Perfect examples include slow cooker Ultimate Lentil Soup and Forbidden Black Rice & Quinoa Salad with Avocado.
I’m thankful that a well-stocked pantry and bi-weekly box of farm-fresh vegetable are keeping my dinners healthy and flavourful. The lentil soup is a recipe I adapt from Slow Cooker Revolution. I made it numerous times including once inside the paddock of Montreal’s F1 race track while it rained non-stop for 17 hours. The addition of fresh and dried mushrooms loads the soup with meaty flavour without the meat. In lieu of bacon and chicken stock, I keep the soup vegetarian by using parmesan rinds and vegetable stock instead. The best part though is an accidental discovery. America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe calls for sturdy leafy greens like swiss chard added to the soup before serving. I want my soup to keep well in the fridge so skipping the greens makes sense. What I do instead is to keep a bag of washed and dried kale/spinach/chard in the crisper drawer. I simply line my oversize soup bowl with fistfuls of greens before I fill it with hot soup. The heat of the soup quickly wilts the greens but still retaining some crunch. This is a fantastic way to add more greens to your diet!
The grain salad is adapted from a recipe published in the November 2011 issue of Bon Appétit magazine. Cooking dried grains can be time consuming so I prefer to spread out the work over a couple of days. It can easily be done while I become one with the couch in the evening. I dressed the forbidden black rice and bay-leaf scented quinoa with onions, garlic, and crimini mushrooms sautéed in cumin, cinnamon, and ras el hanout. Lemon zest, lemon juice, and a splash of pomegranate molasses add a tangy zip while the flurries of cilantro, basil, and scallion keep the salad tasting fresh. Do not forget to serve this salad with creamy slices of avocado! The richness of avocado contrasts well with the pop of the grains. It also helps that the salad is eye-catchingly beautiful!
Sigh, ice-cream sundae with homemade hot fudge sauce will have to wait until end of May.