Spicy Black Lentil Tacos with Ancho Crema

These tacos are very delicious and flavorful!   They have just the right mix of spiciness and seasoning.
 I use to make tacos with textured vegetable protein but I quit eating soy quite some time ago.  Lately, I have been missing tacos and my craving for them has grown.
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 I wanted to create a taco seasoning for Robby because he makes turkey tacos for himself quite often.  I was determined to develop a taco seasoning that he would like in hopes to get him to stop using the store bought seasoning packets.  I worked out a recipe that I was happy with and then I forced him to try it.  He was very hesitant at first but he finally gave it a try and said that it was way better!  Yayyy, mission accomplished!!!   The funny thing is, I wasn’t aware of the fact that Cinco de Mayo was just around the corner.  I realized that it was fast approaching when I started seeing other bloggers post their taco recipes.  So, here is my addition to the long list!
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Here are some other great vegetarian taco recipes!  This one – The Forest Feast, this one – Half Baked Harvest, this one – The Artful Desperado, this one – Dolly and Oatmeal, this one - Nutritionally Stripped and this one – Heather Christo.
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Obviously, a crisp cold Mexican beer goes great with these, but I love them with a red or white Rioja.
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Recipe: Serves 4 – 6
  • 1 Cup Black Lentils
  • 5 Cups Filtered Water
  • 1/2 White Onion – diced
  • 1 Large Tomato – grated or 2/3 Cup Strained Tomatoes
  • 1 Teaspoon Ancho Powder –  ancho pepper ground in coffee grinder
  • 2 Teaspoons Paprika
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1 Teaspoons Cumin
  • 1  Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon  Garlic  Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon  Onion  Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon  Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon  Dried Oregano
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne (optional)
  • 12 Corn Tortillas or Taco Shells (I used sprouted corn tortillas)

Toppings

  • 1 1/2 Cups Red Cabbage – thinly sliced – or to taste
  • 1 – 2 Roasted Poblano – diced or sliced into thin strips
  • 1 – 2 Tomato – diced – or to taste
  • 1 Cup Cilantro Micro Sprouts or Fresh Cilantro – or to taste
  • 1 Cup Jack Cheese – optional – or to taste
  • 1 Cup Ancho Crema, Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche – 1 teaspoon ancho powder per cup – or to taste (optional)

Other ideas for toppings

  • Lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Fresh Corn
  • Lime Juice

Instructions:

Measure lentils, sort for any rocks and rinse.  Add the water to the lentils, turn up heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook for about 15 – 20 minutes or until lentils are soft, yet still firm.  Strain and set aside.

While lentils are cooking, remove the stem and seeds from the ancho pepper, tear into small pieces and grind into a power in a coffee grinder.  Set aside.

Dice the onion and add to a straight sided pan, along with the olive oil.  Sauté on medium heat for about 10 – 15 minutes or until slightly golden.  Cut the tomato in half. then grate the tomato cut side down and add to onions (if using tomato sauce, add it in place of the grated tomatoes).  Add the salt, ancho powder and all the spices, mix well and add the lentils.  Cook for another 10 – 15 minutes to incorporate all the flavors.  It’s even better the next day.

You can either heat the tortillas in some olive oil in cast iron skillet until soft or you can wet them with water and heat them in a 350 degree pre-heated oven (drape them over 2 bars on the middle rack, they will be stiff at first but will drape down into a u shape after they heat up).  Bake for 5 – 10 minutes until desired crispiness.

Vegetarian-Black-Lentils-Tacos

Health Benefits:

Lentils have very high levels of soluble fiber and a good amount of insoluble fiber, which is a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels giving you a steady steam of energy.  A half-cup provides about a third of the daily requirements.  Not only is the fiber good for your heart the amount of folate and magnesium is very beneficial for cardiovascular health.  They are loaded with an impressive amount of blood-fortifying iron and when paired with a food containing vitamin C, like citrus fruits or peppers the iron is enhanced, which can also increase your energy.  They are also a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K.  They are truly a nutritional fountain of youth.

Fire Roasted Spirulina Salsa + Roasted Poblano Spirulina Pesto

Ang and I decided to try some recipes containing Spirulina from nuts.com!  We have been interested in doing something like this for quite a while.  A big part of our mission at CaliZona is incorporating healthy ingredients into delicious everyday recipes!  Look for Ang’s great cocktail recipe tomorrow.

Roasted-Poblano-Spirulina-Pesto

Spirulina is a blue-green algae found in pristine freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Spirulina is one of the world’s most complete superfoods.  It promotes cellular regeneration, it is one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories and it is extremely high in antioxidants.

Fire-Roasted-Spirulina-Salsa

Spirulina is very rich in vitamin A, which is great for eye health.  It contains ten times the vitamin A as carrots and 26-times the calcium of milk.  It is very high in bioavailable iron and has more protein than beef, poultry, fish, and soybeans!  It also improves the absorption of dietary nutrients.
 
One of the coolest things about spirulina is that it has a very high concentration of chlorophyll, which makes it extremely detoxifying.  Chlorophyll assists in the removal of toxins from the blood.  It binds to heavy metals and carries them out of your body.   It is very beneficial for removing radiation from radioactive exposure or radioactive therapy.
: )

 Roasted Poblano Spirulina Pesto

Recipe:  Approx.   2 Cups

  • 2 Poblano Peppers – roasted
  • 3/4 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup Manchego Cheese – finely shredded (I used 6 month aged)
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  •  2 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Spirulina Powder – or to taste
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste

Instructions: 

Roast the poblano peppers, remove the burnt skin, remove the stems and seeds.

Finely shred the manchego, peel the garlic, measure all other ingredients, put into a food processor or blender and puree.

Fire Roasted Spirulina Salsa

Recipe: Approx. 4 to 5 cups. (for a smaller amount cut recipe in half)                                             

  • 5 Large Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 3 – 4 Large Cloves Garlic
  • 1 White Onion
  • 2  Serrano Peppers (add 1 for Mild)
  • 2 Anaheim Peppers
  • 1 Poblano Pepper
  • 1 Cup Cilantro Leaves
  • 2 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Spirulina Powder – or to taste
  • 2 1/2 Teaspoons of Sea Salt

Instructions: 

 Core tomatoes, slice in half, cut an x on the bottom and place on a baking sheet.

Slice onion in half, then cut each half into three pieces and place on baking sheet.

Add the serrano, anaheim and poblano peppers onto the baking sheet.  Place baking sheet on the top rack and broil for about 6 – 8 minutes. (check at 6 minutes)

Turn peppers over and broil for 4 – 5 additional minutes.

When cool, remove the skins from the tomatoes.  Remove the skins, cut off the stem and de-seed peppers.  (Leave the seeds in the serranos if you like it hotter)

 Put garlic into a food processor or blender and pulse until minced.  Add all of the vegetables, cilantro, lime juice, spirulina, sea salt to the food processor and pulse until the desired texture.  I do about 15 pulses.

Roasted-Poblano-Spirulina-Pesto-and-Fire-Roasted-Poblano-Spirulina-Pesto

Red Lentil Piquillo Pepper Bisque

This is a truly delightful and velvety smooth soup!  It has incredible flavor with blended piquillo peppers, tomato, lentils, manchego cheese and toasted almonds!

Red-Lentil-Piquillo-Bisque

I made this soup on Wednesday and brought it to the farmers market to let my favorite ceramic artists Tom and Jasper to taste.  They shared it with two other guys and they gave me four thumbs up!  Yayyyy, I love feedback, especially positive feedback.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of meeting a fellow food blogger that I admire very much!  Her name is Pang from the fantastic blog “Circa Happy“!  If you don’t know about Circa Happy, I highly recommend it!  She has to be one of the sweetest people/blogger out there and her photography is out of this world!  She is so sweet in person and it shows in her posts.  It is so awesome to meet someone that you have only communicated with through the internet.  We met up in San Jose for lunch and a little shopping at a very cool outside mall called Santana Row.  We talked about everything and of course food photography and blogging.  We plan to meet again!   The best part about making a big batch of soup is that it is so nice to be able to heat some up after a long day out and call it a night!

Red-Lentil-Piquillo-Pepper-Bisque

I enjoy this with a red Rioja and a white rioja, so it pretty much goes with any dry red or dry white wine.

Red-Lentil-Piquillo-Soup

Recipe: Approx. 8 – 10 servings

Piquillo Puree

  • 1 10 oz. Jar Piquillo Peppers (without sugar add) – rinse and remove seeds
  •  1 Cup Strained Tomatoes (I used Bionaturae in a glass jar) or 1 Large Tomato – grated, skin discarded
  • 1/2 cup Toasted Almonds
  • 1/2 Cup Manchego Cheese ( I used raw aged 12 months – Mitica)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
  • 2 Teaspoons Hot Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt

Soup

  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 White Onions – diced
  • 4 Garlic Cloves – minced
  • 1 Bouillon Cube – vegetarian – unsalted
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Cups Red Lentils, -sorted  and rinsed
  • 8 Cups Filtered Water

Garnish (optional, but so good)

  • Red Cabbage – thinly sliced
  • Creme Fraiche
  • Toasted Almonds – roughly chopped

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F

Toast almonds – spread out on a cookie sheet and bake on the middle rack for 18 minutes (put a timer on so you don’t burn).   Let cool, then roughly chop.

While almonds are toasting, dice the onion and add to a 4 to 5 1/2 quart soup pot or dutch oven along with the olive oil.  Sauté on medium heat.
Mince the garlic and add to onions and sauté for about 10 – 15 minutes or until garlic is slightly golden.
 Add wine and bouillon.  Mash bouillon cube to dissolve and cook until wine is syrupy.
While onions are cooking, measure lentils, sort for any rocks and rinse.  Set aside.
When the onions are finished cooking, add water and lentils.  Turn up heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.
While lentils are cooking, make the piquillo puree.  In a food processor or blender; puree the piquillo peppers, crushed tomato sauce (if using a tomato, cut in half and grate on a cheese grater with the cut side of the tomato down), almonds, cheese, vinegar, paprika and salt.  Add the puree to soup when the lentils are finished cooking.
Puree with a hand held blender (immersion blender) or you can use a food processor but it won’t be as smooth.
Health benefits:
Piquillo peppers are a high source of fiber, and Vitamins C, E, A, and B.  The vitamin C content is as high as a citrus fruit.  They improve the blood circulation and reduce high blood pressure.  They also help reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol and promote healthy cholesterol.
Lentils have very high levels of soluble fiber and a good amount of insoluble fiber, which is a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels giving you a steady steam of energy.  A half-cup provides about a third of the daily requirements.  Not only is the fiber good for your heart the amount of folate and magnesium is very beneficial for cardiovascular health.  They are loaded with an impressive amount of blood-fortifying iron and when paired with a food containing vitamin C, like citrus fruits or peppers the iron is enhanced, which can also increase your energy.  They are also a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K.  They are truly a nutritional fountain of youth.

Kale Salad with Lemon Thyme Pesto Vinaigrette

The flavor combination of this Italian inspired salad is phenomenal!  The sun-dried tomatoes work well with the lemon thyme pesto vinaigrette and the veggies add a great crunchy texture.
 Robby went back to work last week, which would have been hard after spending a whole month together; however, Beto and Paloma stayed with us the whole week while Jill was in Korea.  We had a few beach days and a lot of relaxing time.  Paloma wanted to stay for Robby’s birthday which ended up being a really fun day!
We went downtown and picked up a pink Santa Cruz sweatshirt for Paloma, then we went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where Paloma had so much fun on the rides.  Although, she did not like the rollercoaster.  She said I don’t want to go on one ever again.  Awwww.  To top off the day, we went to the “West End Tap and Kitchen” for a great dinner as usual!  After they left, Robby and I assumed our normal routine and tomorrow is the first day I’ll have to myself in a long time and I’m kind of excited about it!  And this salad is a perfect way to start my routine!
 This salad goes great with any white wine! I enjoy it with a glass of Suave.
Recipe: Approx. 4 – 6 servings
  • 1 Head Kale – thinly chopped
  • 1/2 Fennel – cut in half and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Watermelon Radish – sliced and quartered
  • 1 Cup Red Cabbage – sliced – diced – or minced
  • 1/4 Cup Dry Sun-Dried Tomatoes (not packed in oil) – homemade or store-bought – minced
  • 1/2 Cup Pecorino Cheese – finely shredded – or to taste
  • 1 Cup Lemon Thyme Pesto Vinaigrette (or the whole recipe)
Garnish options:
  • Micro greens,
  • Toasted almonds
  • Finely shredded Pecorino Cheese
Instructions:
If you are making your own sun dried tomatoes, you will need to make them the day before.  Mince and set aside the sun dried tomatoes.
Make the vinaigrette.  Set aside.
 Wash the kale, remove the main rib by holding the end of the steam and pull down with your other hand then discard the main rib.  Chop the kale into thin strips. Add to a large bowl.
Cut stocks off the fennel bulb, cut bulb in half, then cut out the core of one half.  Slice the half in half, and then slice as thin as you can or use a mandolin.  Add to the kale.
Slice the radishes as thin as you can or use a mandolin. Cut the slices into quarters and add to kale.
Thinly slice the cabbage and add to kale along with the vinaigrette.  Mix really well.
Garnish with micro greens, toasted almonds and pecorino. (optional)
Health benefits:
Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and it is a loaded with antioxidants which helps detox the liver. It is also an anti-inflammatory with omega-3 fatty acids, which is helpful for arthritis, joint pain and asthma. Kale has more Iron than beef and more calcium than milk which helps prevents osteoporosis, joint flexibility and helps maintain normal bone health. It is great for cardiovascular support that helps in lowering cholesterol. It is really high in vitamin A, C, and super high in the powerful antioxidant vitamin K (anyone taking anticoagulants should avoid kale because the high level of vitamin K that may interfere with the drugs.)

Radishes help eliminate excess mucus in the body and are great for respiratory disorders, bronchitis and asthma. They are cleansing for the digestive system helping to break down and eliminate stagnant food and toxins that have built up over time as well as eliminate cancer-causing free radicals in the body. They are very high in vitamin C, which improves your immune system.They have a low glycemic index and helps to regulate the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, which is great for diabetics. Radishes water content keep your body and skin keep hydrated and with their high fiber content they increase regular bowel movements, relieve bloating and help indigestion. They are a powerful detoxifier of the liver and stomach. They are also great for reducing blood pressure with the high potassium content.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes are very high in anti-oxidants; just one cup has 23 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 16 percent of vitamin A.  The Vitamin C in dried tomatoes helps your body absorb the high iron content as well. They are high in potassium which helps prevent and lower high blood pressure. These tomatoes are very high in dietary fiber compared to raw tomatoes.

Lemon Thyme has anti-aging properties and boosts the immune system. It helps fight asthma, promotes relaxation, and helps digestion.  Lemon thyme is high in iron and an excellent source of vitamin C.

Italian Pasta Salad

This is a great simple summer salad you won’t want to stop eating.  The Italian dressing is light on the vinegar and with the mix of Asiago cheese, roasted peppers and fresh basil take it to another level of yumminess!!!

Pasta-Salad

I was so excited for Easter this year.  Beto and Paloma came over and we went to our friends Alison and Anders for an egg hunt and potluck!  Paloma hung out with their kids Viola and Bjorn at our wedding.  They really like each other, and it was cute to see them hunting for eggs together.

Italian-Pasta-Salad

This is one of my favorite pasta salads and knew it would be perfect for this potluck, along with some wine of course.  It goes great with a Pinot Gris, white Rioja, a light Pinot Noir or Tempranillo.

Italian-Pasta-Salad-with-Asiago-Cheese

Recipe –  6 – 8 servings

  • 1 – 16 oz Package Pasta (Your Choice) 
  • 1 Container Cherry Tomatoes (About 2 Cups)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper – roasted – diced
  • 1 Small Yellow Bell Pepper – roasted – diced
  • 1/4 Red Onion – minced
  • 1 Cup Asiago Cheese – finely shredded  (You can use Parmesan if you like it milder)
  • 1 Cup Fresh Basil – chiffonade
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 1 Recipe Basic Italian Dressing

Instructions:

Start by cooking the pasta.

While pasta is cooking  roast the peppers.

When pasta is al dente put into a large bowl and let cool.

When pasta is cool add tomatoes and Basic Italian Dressing.

Mince the red onion, dice the peppers, grate the asiago add to bowl and stir well.

Lay the basil leaves on top of each other, roll them into a tight tube shape and slice thin into strips and add to bowl.  Stir well.

Italian-Pasta-Salad-w-Asiago-Cheese

Health benefits:

Bell Peppers are matured green bell peppers and have more nutrition as they mature.  They are super high in vitamin A which helps to support healthy eyesight, especially night vision and are extremely high in vitamin C, so much so they have twice as much as an orange which makes it really good for the skin.  Red peppers are one of the highest veggies in lycopene, and have been successfully tested in the prevention of many cancers.  They have a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese and B-complex and vitamin E.  They help reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, helps controls diabetes and helps reduce pain.  They are also a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, molybdenum and manganese.

Tomatoes are great for the heart due to the extreme antioxidant support, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that help the reduction of heart disease.  They are also high in vitamins A, C, K and potassium.  The choline in tomatoes helps assist the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.  It also helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.  Tomatoes are high in Lycopene the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.  Cooking tomatoes breaks down the cell walls, which helps to release the lycopene and is better absorbed by the body with a little bit of fat like olive oil.  The Zea-xanthin in them helps filtering harmful ultra-violet rays, which protect eyes from “age-related macular disease.”  They are also a powerful blood purifier and great for skin and bone health.

Fresh Basil has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  The herb contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin A and is rich in zea-xanthin an anti-oxidant that helps protect age-related macular disease.  It has a good amount of Iron and also helps to detoxify the liver.  It contains phytochemicals that may lower cortisol, a hormone secreted when you’re stressed that causes weight gain, so add some fresh basil to you water or tea.