Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu (slow cooker)

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

This recipe is so simple, and so tasty. And to top it all off, it’s quite healthy – full of lean protein and veggies and fiber (lentils are a total superfood). As healthy as this dish is, however, it does not skimp on flavor (and as an unexpected bonus, it’s vegan!).

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

This recipe originally comes from a Weight Watchers slow cooker cookbook, which I made a couple of times before making some significant modifications. The original recipe calls for shrimp as the add-in at the end of the slow cooking process, which was pretty good, but not my favorite (I prefer shrimp that’s been grilled or stir-fried – plus, 2 pounds of shrimp can be really expensive if you’re not buying on sale), so I used tofu instead. I also increased the amount of garlic (because 1 clove is never enough).

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

Lastly, I replaced the celery in the recipe with leeks. Because you know what? Celery is stupid. It’s flavorless, it smells more like sterile cleaning liquid than food and while some will argue that it provides “texture” to soup and stews and the like, I find it annoying and useless. So, I used leeks instead, because leeks provide robustness without significantly changing the main flavor.

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu, in the slow cooker
Adapted from Weight Watchers

2 1/2 cups veggie broth
1 cup dried red lentils
1 large red onion, chopped
2-3 leeks, thinly sliced and chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon peanut, grapeseed or canola oil (any neutral oil)
16 oz. firm/extra firm tofu (firmer the better)

Add the broth, lentils, onion, leeks, ginger, garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper (first 10 ingredients) into your slow cooker. Stir together, cover, and cook on high for 2-3 hours (I let mine cook for the full 3 hours). I believe you can also cook the ingredients on low for 4-6 hours – the mixture is done when everything is soft and broken down.

When there’s about 45 minutes or so left on the timer, brown your tofu on the stove as preparation before adding to the slow cooker. Slice the tofu blocks into bite-sized pieces. Heat up some neutral oil (peanut, grapeseed, canola – just not olive, if you can help it) in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and let it brown, stirring frequently after a couple of minutes so that all the pieces brown somewhat evenly (this took about 15 minutes for me, but cooking times may vary). Add the browned tofu to the slow cooker, stir, replace the lid, and continue cooking.

Serve in bowls and enjoy! The leftovers for this recipe keep quite well – in fact, they get a little spicier after sitting in the fridge, which is a nice bonus. I imagine you could also serve this dish over some grains (couscous or rice), but it works great on its own.

An excellent way to prepare steel-cut oats – overnight!

Since late last year, I’ve made it a habit to eat breakfast before I leave for work in the morning (as opposed to eating once I get to work, after a 45-minute commute). When I do this, I’m much more alert by the time I arrive to the office, and I feel much better throughout the day. I love steel-cut oats, but they take too long to cook on an average morning, at least for me.

Solution: The Kitchn’s excellent tips for making steel-cut oats the night before.

Here’s what you do:

Ingredients:
A bit of butter or olive oil (around 1 teaspoon)
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
A few pinches of salt (2-3)

(This amount of oats and water will yield somewhere between 3-6 servings, depending on how much oatmeal you like to eat.)

In a saucepan (the Kitchn says 2-quart size, I’m not sure what size my pan was), briefly heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat, then add the oats and fry until they smell toasty (about 3 minutes).

Pour in the water, add salt and stir. Bring to a “rolling boil,” then turn off the heat, cover the pan, and leave it on the stove. Then go collapse into bed.

In the morning, uncover the oatmeal, heat on medium-low and stir a few times until you reach your desired temperature (or scoop out the amount you want and heat it in the microwave).

Transfer your leftovers to a seal-able container and put in the fridge – you can enjoy for the rest of the week, as steel-cut oats are just as awesome when stored as leftovers and re-heated.

I’ve been enjoying my oats by re-heating on the stove or microwave, then adding some strawberry jam, a handful of blackberries and a sprinkling of walnut pieces. Amazing.

Baking with steel-cut oats, two ways

Strawberry steel-cut oatmeal muffins

Steel-cut oats are a revelation. They’re like super-duper power oatmeal. And apparently, they’re even more nutritious than rolled oats. They take a little longer to cook, but on the bright side, they make fantastic leftovers (as do regular rolled oats, in fact, when baked), so you can make a big batch and easily enjoy until it runs out.

Yesterday morning, I consulted my copy of Not Your Mother’s Casserole, and then mixed some steel-cut oats with milk and salt in a baking dish, let sit in the fridge all day while I was at work, then popped in the oven for about 35 minutes after I got home. I then let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to finish thickening up (it comes out a bit soupy at first), then served with some chopped-up veggie bacon and a poached egg. Healthy breakfast for dinner! And I now have basic cooked oats to enjoy for a few more days.

I was on a roll, so I decided to make a Bay Area Bites recipe that I’ve had bookmarked for awhile: Low-fat Steel-Cut Oat Muffins with Cherry Jam Inside. The results are not big, fluffy traditional muffins – they’re more like sweet mini oatmeal cakes. Perfect as a healthy snack between meals, with coffee or tea. I only had strawberry jam, however, so here’s what I ended up with:

Strawberry Steel-Cut Oatmeal Muffins
adapted from Bay Area Bites

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats, cooked
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice – let mixture stand for 10 minutes for using)
  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam (any fruit jam will work – I just happened to have Trader Joe’s reduced-sugar strawberry jam on hand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the first five ingredients in a medium bowl (flour through salt). Using a food processor or just your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture becomes pebbly butter flour.

Pour the mixture from the food processor back into the first bowl, and gently mix in the cooked oats with a wooden spoon until incorporated.

Beat your egg in with your buttermilk/milk in a separate bowl, then add to the flour/oat mixture and stir it all together.

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin (or any muffin tin – just know that this recipe should yield 12 muffins) with cooking spray. Spoon batter evenly into each cup.

Make a teaspoon-sized hole in the top of each cup of muffin batter, and spoon 1 teaspoon of jam into each hole. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Note: my muffins didn’t turn as brown as I expected, so they didn’t look done to me at first – I may have overcooked them by about 5 minutes. Be sure to check the muffins right at the 20 minute mark, or even before that, depending on the state of your oven (mine tends to take longer to bake things).