Baked Lentil Casserole

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: Entrees

This is easy, cheap, and filling. My kids can’t get enough of it.

You’ll need:

  • 9″ x 13″ baking pan
  • Oven at 350F


  • 1 lb lentils
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 or 3 large onions
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic

Put in the baking pan and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.


  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup celery, diced

Bake covered for another 40 minutes.

Take out the bay leaves if practical, and add:

  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (or 2 Tbsp dried parsley)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese, sprinkled on top

Bake uncovered for 5-10 minutes.


makes 8-10 reasonably large servings.


Nutrition Facts

8 Servings

Amount Per Serving

Calories 244.1
Total Fat 9.8 g
Saturated Fat 6.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.7 g
Cholesterol 29.7 mg
Sodium 1,121.8 mg
Potassium 456.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 26.9 g
Dietary Fiber 8.7 g
Sugars 5.8 g
Protein 14.3 g
Vitamin A 75.5 %
Vitamin B-12 3.9 %
Vitamin B-6 13.5 %
Vitamin C 35.6 %
Vitamin D 0.8 %
Vitamin E 2.6 %
Calcium 24.7 %
Copper 11.1 %
Folate 32.5 %
Iron 15.8 %
Magnesium 10.5 %
Manganese 22.9 %
Niacin 5.5 %
Pantothenic Acid 6.3 %
Phosphorus 28.0 %
Riboflavin 10.8 %
Selenium 8.5 %
Thiamin 10.6 %
Zinc 12.2 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Guest Post: Epic Rainbow Cake

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: dessert

Here’s a post from my lovely wife on the birthday cake we made for our youngest this year…

Since I’ve had a number of comments along the lines of, “ooh, I want to do that now too!” here is a post full of things I learned while making the Epic Rainbow Cake.

I’ll start by saying I saw a pic online and said to myself, “Hey, that looks cool. I think I could do that!” And yes, I did. And it was more work than I expected. Whoops. Not horrible, but more than I expected.

Much of the work was in the dying and baking of the layers. I only had 2 pans, and had to make 6 layers. I figured I could do 2 at a time and be done fairly quick. This wasn’t the case. I had to cook each layer, then let it cool most of the way in the pan before taking it out, or else they fell apart. This slowed things down considerably.

To do over again, I’d either get more pans, and/or I’d get smaller pans to make each layer thicker. (see next point, and the one about leveling down below)

I first tried to take one single cake mix and divide it into 6, then bake 6 thin layers. That didn’t work so well. First, it didn’t bake all that well. Second, it was so thin that it just fell apart when I took it out of the pan. So, then I had to quick mix up another mix and recalculate each layer. If I had smaller diameter pans, I could have done it with a single mix and not had HUGE amounts of cake.
Here’s my first failed layer:

Here’s my first successful layer:

I used Wilton icing colors to make the rich color. (Like these.) They worked wonderfully. It took a lot of bowls and forks and knives, but it did the job well. I used forks for mixing each batch, as it seemed to mix the color in better. I used table knives to get the color from the jar into the cake mix. Amazingly enough, my hands aren’t rainbow colored today as I expected they would be. I think that’s more because I’ve washed them 3948573546 times in the last 26 hours than because I was careful not to get dye on me though.

I had some fun mixing the orange. I didn’t have orange dye, so I had to blend red and yellow myself.

This took a LOT more frosting than I expected. Of course, it was a lot more cake than I expected too.

Ok, on to actual instructions.

Some of the things you’ll need:
2 boxes white cake mix & whatever they call for to make the cake.
Wilton icing color, or similar strong food dye. (I woudln’t recommend using cheap liquid food dye for this. The amount you’d need would probably water down the cake badly.)
Bowls for each color

Start with two boxes of white cake mix. (I probably could have done something from scratch, but I wasn’t feeling that ambitious.)

Before mixing them, get out your kitchen scale and tare it with the mixing bowl on it. Then put all the cake mixes and the rest of what the cake mix calls for into the bowl and see how much it weighs. Then divide that number by 6 to know how much for each layer. (Our amount was roughly 11 ounces per layer, though each cake mix may differ somewhat.)

Mix them up according to package directions.

Scoop or pour out the amount of cake batter you need for each layer into separate bowls. Then add dye and mix thoroughly.

Bake each layer in a well greased 8″ round cake pan for 12 minutes [IB: Even the nonstick pans need a good coat of cooking spray. You really don’t want these to get stuck]. Test for doneness. Remove from oven and let cool before removing it from pan. Let cool completely before moving on to the frosting step. [IB: In to remove the cake from the pan without destroying it, find a plate that fits just inside the pan and put it face down on the top of the cake, flip it upside down while holding the plate. press the wire cooling rack against the bottom of the cake and flip it right side up again]

*I should insert here an instruction to level each cake as best you can. I didn’t do very well, and mine’s a bit dome shaped. If I had to do over again, I’d try to make each layer a bit thicker, and level it off better.

Mix up your frosting for the filling. I used cream cheese frosting in between each layer, and for my crumb coat. I used two 8oz packages of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter, all softened to room temp. Then added about 1 tsp vanilla and 3 cups icing sugar.  Mix well with stand or electric mixer.  This was BARELY enough, so I’d recommend adding at least another stick of butter and 1-2 cups of icing sugar, or just make more of whatever frosting you want to use. [ IB: It really helps to really crank the stand mixer speed to get ultimate creamy frosting – use the paddle, or one of these]

I frosted in between each layer. I’d have put more in between each, for a better visual effect, but I just didn’t have enough. Taste wise, it was a perfect amount though.

Then I did my crumb coat. A crumb coat on this is essential, unless you want multi-colored specs all through your white frosting. Let the crumb coat firm up in the fridge, or harden to the touch on the counter (depending on the type of frosting you use) for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. (I put mine in the fridge overnight, because it was late and I was too tired at this point. It worked fine to leave it overnight with the crumb coat, then finish frosting it the next day.)
Process pic of the crumb coat. See how I’m scraping frosting off the spatula to slap onto the cake? Yeah, I BARELY had enough.

For the outer layer of frosting, I used 1 1/2 sticks of butter, about a teaspoon of vanilla, 2 tablespoons of milk, and 3 cups icing sugar. This was BARELY enough to cover the outside well. Ideally, I’d have made more and had more to make the spreading on easier. (If you watch the videos from the crumb coat link above, it shows why having extra is good if you want it to look really nice.) I frosted the top, then the sides with a table knife. If I were going to do this more often than once every few years, I’d invest in a decent frosting spreader/spatula thing. (I’m sure they have a specific name… the videos I watched last night probably told me, but I’ve now forgotten.)

Personally, I liked it this way, plain white on the outside. I think it would lend more kick to the rainbow inside. However the birthday girl requested sprinkles, so sprinkles it was.

Fairly quickly before the icing was dry to the touch, I put the sprinkles on the sides. I had to work fast, because my icing was drying faster than I expected it to. I took a few sprinkles in my hand at a time and just threw them at the sides of the cake until I thought it looked good. Yes, truly. It was fun. And yes, I’ll be finding stray sprinkles in my kitchen for months. Especially since I spilled them in the process. See?

You can sort of see the big container of sprinkles there at the edge of the pic. Thankfully I’d washed my counters well before starting, so I could just scoop them up and toss them at the cake. I had to toss fairly hard to get them to stick because the frosting was drying. I’ve done this before with a different type of frosting and they stuck better, but it was a frosting that didn’t dry. (Cream Cheese frosting doesn’t dry. Buttercream does. Just fyi.)

This was the finished product:

I had hoped to have some extra frosting to color to pipe “Happy Birthday, C!” onto the top, but that was a no go. I had BARELY enough to cover the whole thing, and I was not going to mix up a third batch of frosting just to do some piping work. Plus, I was almost out of time as I had to go pick her up from preschool. So, the top stayed plain. I did stick candles into it for her so we could sing Happy Birthday to her, and so she could blow them out.

And here’s what it looks like to cut into:

And the first slice:

(Some of these were taken really quickly because I had a birthday girl and two of her friends wanting to eat the cake now please, so sorry if they’re blurry or not the best quality.)

Ok, I think that’s my full brain dump.  Sorry if it’s a bit disjointed, but I’m tired, and my brain is disjointed from the HUGE sugar crash I’m on right now. 🙂

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: soup

This evening was cool and rainy. Perfect soup weather. At lunch, I’d had some Baja Enchilada soup at Planet Sub, and was inspired.

To do this properly takes about 2 days**

Day 1:

  1. Obtain a rotisserie chicken from your favourite purveyor of such things. I’m a big fan of Costco. You can make your own, too, if so inclined (and equipped).
  2. Eat the chicken for dinner.
  3. Boil the carcass for about an hour in 2 quarts of water and put the whole thing in the fridge overnight.

Day 2:

  1. Take the chicken in a pot out of the fridge.
  2. Scoop the solidified fat from the top of the pot and put in your soup pot.
  3. Using a colander, separate the chunks of chicken from the broth
  4. Remove any chunks that don’t strike you as edible.
  5. Put the edible bits back in the broth and set aside
  6. Finely chop up:
    1. an onion (I’ll leave it up to you how big)
    2. a red pepper (or two)
    3. garlic (how much depends on your individual taste and the current level of vampire activity in your area)
    4. green chiles (or you can cheat and use them from a can)
    5. Maybe even some jalapenos if you’re feeling wild
  7. Heat the chicken fat and sauté the vegetables in it. If your chicken was lean, you may want to add some olive oil, you’re going to need about 4-6 tablespoons worth of fat for the roux.
  8. Add 3/4 cup flour or masa harina and make a roux (about 3 minutes with a whisk, until it starts browning)
  9. Add the chicken broth and stir with the whisk until well blended
  10. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep the roux from sticking. When it boils, the soup will be thickened.
  11. Add 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, and salt to taste and stir it in.
  12. Stir in 1.5 cups grated cheese. Cheddar works well, as does any mexican blend or something of that ilk. Please don’t use something like Velveeta, it would make me cry.
  13. Let the cheese get all nice and melty as you stir it in.
  14. You can add some other southwesternish sorts of things like corn, black beans, and cilantro here. Stir it, and serve.


Goes well with a garnish of sour cream, tortilla strips, pico de gallo,  or just a nice simple roll.
Make sure you have your favorite hot sauce handy.

** But you can totally cheat by using prepackaged chicken broth and add some chicken (this works well with canned chicken breast)

Ranch Dressing

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: salad

Ranch dressing is one of those things that is easy to make, yet it’s something folks buy premade at the store. Here’s a quick recipe that uses no unpronounceable or questionable ingredients. It’s adapted from this recipe. Units listed are proportional parts.

  • 1  ground dried thyme
  • 2 onion powder
  • 4 garlic powder
  • 6 ground pepper
  • 8 seasoned salt
  • 8 dried parsley

For a single batch of dressing, 1 part = 1/8 teaspoon and yields 1 tablespoon of seasoning mix for 1 pint of dressing.

To make a large batch for use later, 1 part  = 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) and makes 1.5 cups of mix, enough for 24 batches (1.5 gallons) of dressing.

To make the dressing, mix:

  • 1 Tablespoon seasoning mix
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup of
      • Yogurt for thick dressing (you can also use varying amounts of yogurt and whey to adjust consistency)
      • buttermilk for thin dressing
      • sour cream for dip

You can also use this seasoning mixed with bread crumbs for breading chicken.

Summer peach iced tea

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: drinks

It’s the thick of peach season here in Kansas, and there’s nothing more refreshing than a nice tall cool glass of iced tea. The two together is a refreshing and tasty combo.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Gallon container
  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 3 bags Luzianne Iced Tea blend
  • 2 bags Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion
  • sugar or sweetener to taste (about 1/2 cup sugar per gallon for southern-style “proper tea”)

Steep the tea for about 5 minutes and remove the teabags. Add the sweetener and dissolve, then add the cold water. Chill or serve over ice right away. For extra rereshment, add a fresh lemon or slice of peach.

Mediterranean Burritos

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: Entrees

Dinner dilemma: all I have that will thaw readily is a pound of ground lamb. How to make something tasty in 20 minutes?

Then I got the crazy idea to go with burritos, and add a lamb twist, and go mediterranean.

First, I made some citrus/cilantro rice, Chipotle-style. Steam up some rice, toss in some chopped cilantro with some oil/butter and some lemon or lime juice and some salt.

Next, in lieu of refried beans, I made some hummus. Throw a can of chick peas into the food processor with some lemon juice, a couple cloves of garlic, some tahini, and salt.

Brown the lamb with some Greek seasonings, wrap in a tortilla with some lettuce, tomatoes and some yogurt or tatziki (and Andrea suggested some avocado slices), and you’ve got yourself a quick and very tasty dinner.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: soup

It’s cold outside, so it’s time for some yummy winter fare.

You will need:

  • A large pot
  • A hand blender (or a regular blender)
  • Butter (1 quarter-pound stick plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 quart dairy (milk or half-and-half, depending on how rich you want this to be)
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 pound shredded carrots
  • 1 pound broccoli
  • 1 pound potatotes, cubed (or use leftover baked potato)
  • 1 pound cheese suitable for melting (I highly recommend at least 2 oz cream cheese as part of this)
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

Take 2 tablespoons of the butter and saute the onions, and set them aside.

Take the remaining butter and flour and make a roux. Add the dairy and chicken stock and let simmer and thicken for about 20 minutes.

While it’s doing this, cook the broccoli (5 min), carrots (2 min), and potatoes (4 min) in a covered dish in the microwave.

After the base has thickened some, add the vegetables, salt, and garlic and let simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Use a hand blender to puree the mixture (you can also do it in batches in a regular blender if you need to).

Add the cheese and melt until it’s nice and thick. Serve with a really good roll.

Makes around 16 cups/8 servings.

Mayonnaise and Summer Dill Dip

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: side dish

This is a dill dip similar to those you find in veggie trays or in the produce department at the store, and it’s way cheaper to make yourself from scratch, and it’s tastier.


  • Wire whisk or hand blender
  • small bowl (1qt should be fine)


  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1.5 Tbsp dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt

put the egg yolk, water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt into the bowl and blend until smooth. add a little bit of the oil and emulsify. slowly add the oil and blend until smooth.

(Congratulations, you’ve just made mayonnaise!)

Add the sour cream and the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Let sit for an hour or two for the flavors to blend. Serve with your favourite veggies.

If you’re scaling this recipe up, you don’t need to add an extra egg yolk – a single egg yolk is enough to make several cups of mayo.

November Roast Pork Loin

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: Entrees

Whipped this up this evening, and it was surprisingly easy and quick, took me about an hour from turning the oven on to serving, yet it’s a good one to serve when company is coming.

Pork roast

2 small apples

1 small onion

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1.5 cups apple cider

1 Tablespoon cornstarch




Take pork roast (in today’s case, some sirloin), dust it with salt, garlic and thyme and let rest while the oven heats to 350F. While the oven is heating, peel, core, and chop apples and onion, and saute in a pan with the cranberries and some thyme. Add 3/4 cup of cider and the pecans and simmer for about 5 minutes, letting the juice be absorbed into the cranberries. Add the remaining juice and thicken with the cornstarch.

Pour some of the sauce onto the roast and stick it in the over until internal temperature reads 155F. Take out and allow to rest for a few minutes. Slice into medallions and serve with the sauce. Goes well with rice or potatoes and a salad.

Thai Squash Soup

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: Entrees, soup

Lately, I’ve been taking a more active interest in learning to cook Thai. I’ve got a pretty good handle on Thai Basil Chicken and am branching out. My current reference is Judy Bastyra’s book, “Thai: the essence of Asian cooking“, which is has drool-inducing photographs, as well as a good overview of ingredients and techniques. This recipe came from the book, and I deviated from the recipe on occasion due to ingredient availability. It is a regional dish of Northern Thailand, and was delightful on a cool and gray fall day.

Prep Time: under 30 minutes

Serves 4

Heat 1 quart of vegetable stock (I used chicken stock, as I used the last of my vegetable stock last week) in a pan and prepare the chilli paste by pureeing the following in a small food processor:

4oz sliced shallots (I was all out of shallots, so I used chives)

10 drained bottled green peppercorns

1 fresh green chili pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (available from a good oriental grocery)

(I used canned green chillies in lieu of fresh and the peppercorns)

Peel and cube a smallish butternut squash (about 12 oz). and cut 4 oz green beans into 1-inch pieces.

Add the squash, green beans, and 2 oz dried banana flower (I have no idea where to get this, so I skipped it).  to the stock and cook it for 15 minutes. This would be a good time to cook up some rice (If you’re doing brown/red/black rice, you’ll want to prepare this ahead of time. White rice only takes 15-20 minutes).

After the stock and veggies have cooked for 15 minutes, add:

1 tbsp fish sauce (Nam Pla)

12oz prawns or shrimp (I used frozen from Costco, but fresh works too)

small bunch fresh basil

Simmer for 3 minutes and serve over rice.

In the KC area, there are two asian groceries that I like. One is at 103rd and Metcalf in Overland Park, the other is across from the park & ride on Grand at City Market.