Spring barley salad with green goddess dressing

It’s St. Patty’s Day week, with official spring just a skip away, and I wanted to share something green. No loosely connected, tangent-riddled stories, just green goodness. Also a few musings on green love. Because, how would you know it was really me writing if I didn’t wander a little in whimsy in what is otherwise meant to be a sensible share?
Salad (1 of 10)

This recipe is all about the dressing. A dressing so easy (being dressing) that goes atop salad so variable (being salad), you don’t need half the list or even need steps. With a sound go-to Green Goddess like this one, you can go wild and just trust your tangy sauce will hold everything together with a satisfying lip smack. (It goes great with quinoa, too. 🙂 )

It’s funny how ingrained in human nature it is to find fault or focus on the negative. Research shows it takes roughly 25 compliments to take the edge off an insult. Personal experience says maybe quite a lot more. Even something as life-giving and peaceful as green is not immune. A color universally associated with nature, health, and feelings of being renewed is also linked with envy, seasickness, and greed.

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But it is St. Patrick’s Day week, and it is almost officially spring, so what better time to practice re-wiring our brains to focus on the positive? Fire and wire. Because green is loveliness and nature, and positive energy will do us good.

Green sings. Green grows, and nourishes. Green is Kermit the Frog, at once awkward and lovable, pure and loyal in expressiveness, determined and adventurous calmly reassuring that not only is it OK to feel sad, everything will be alright.

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Green is gorgeous, humble, sustaining life. The world is getting hotter in more ways than one, and sadder. This spring, let’s freshen up and green up where we can. At least let’s love our greens.

Spring barley salad with green goddess dressing
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup pearl barley
  2. 1 large ripe avocado, flesh only
  3. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  4. 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  5. 1/2 cup water
  6. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  7. 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
  8. 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  9. 1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
  10. 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  11. Sea salt and pepper to taste
  12. 3 cups baby spinach, kale or mixed greens
  13. 4-5 radishes, thinly sliced
  14. 1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal
  15. 1 medium carrot, shredded
  16. 1 cucumber, sliced and halved
  17. 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  18. 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  19. 1 cup sprouts, for topping
Instructions
  1. Combine the barley with 3 cups water and a pinch of salt in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and let cool.
  2. Prepare the dressing: in a high speed blender or food processor, combine avocado plus next 8 ingredients (through parsley) and process until smooth. Thin with additional water as needed for desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Toss barley with vegetables. Drizzle with dressing as desired and stir to combine. Serve topped with sprouts. Store leftover dressing in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Gluten-free vegan cinnamon date “blondie” bars (date-sweetened)

Lately there’s been an especially annoying and annoyingly persistent refrain caught in my brain–that awful Cookie Jar chant. You know the one. Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? [X] stole the cookies from the cookie jar… I don’t have a particularly good reason to particularly dislike that rhyming name game, but I do. The reason it’s stuck there is a little bit more endearing if somewhat problematic, in that little F has been taking to helping himself from the cookie tin housed in the freezer. Once, we thought that purchasing a new fridge with a large freezer drawer on the bottom would be useful in warding off snack sneaking, but no, it’s not. There are certainly conversations that need be had, rules and boundaries to be discussed. Yet there is a big, admiring, mushy part of me that wants to indulge our little big boy in every independent, empowered initiative to meet his own needs, including this one.

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My accommodating nature and his nibbling cause are mutually fed, literally I guess, by the fact that for the moment our attempts at healthy messaging around treats and sugars seem to be sinking in. “No more sugar for you today, Daddy,” F will say with surprising regularity whenever Daddy’s caught snagging an extra snack. “If you eat too much sugar, you gonna be sick and your body gonna be confused.” It seems counterintuitive to reward such observations by being all the more lax on self-guided cookie ventures, but gee.

Another factor chiseling away at resolve to be more firm is that the cookie tin, which is actually rather small, is typically filled with these healthy grain-free sugar cookies from Chocolate Covered Katie. Or a vegan variation of these, which I created for Madhava. And right now, it’s loosely packed with these, date-sweetened, just a bit chewy, gluten free and vegan ‘blondie’ bars I had sifting around in my mind for awhile and finally got to try.  

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For someone who makes a point of trying
not to eat cookies too often and goes to fairly significant lengths to make sure treats are on the healthy (for treats) side, I seem to have established a longstanding reputation for having a stash pile of cookies. Pre-parenting, our house was a routine stop-by for friends who routed long bike rides specifically to include a snack break from the freezer. When little F was born, the baking took a sharp downturn for a good while. But then my little sous chef got into mixing, measuring, stirring and baking with me…and there you go. The freezer was back in action as a (healthy-for-cookies) cookie trove.

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These were originally meant to be a makeover of these quinoa cinnamon toffee bars I made for Ancient Harvest and loved when tasted but didn’t eat. They’re not dairy-free, for one thing. I had a few adaptations in mind, but before long the tweaks piled up so much there was barely any resemblance to the first version and walah! Whole new cookie. (In case you’re wondering, yes I just thought it would be fun to say/write ‘walah’.) They’re rather guiltless, and yummy. Superb fresh from the oven, with that gooey meltaway chocolate quality; and they hold up amazingly well in the freezer. They may even be best–once the straight from the oven time has passed–straight from the freezer.

Chat wedding practice (3 of 5)There was a moment the other week while we were both still sick when I just collapsed in a mire of loneliness, negativity, and feeling sorry for myself. Everything was on hold. We were so cooped up. I hit such a low point that, looking over at my conked out child lying next to me on the bed, I felt the words pulse quietly against my brain, “This you-and-me alone deal is just not enough.” And as soon as the thought made its presence known, I recanted it. Truly, just then this diaphanous turning-point kind of ray of light glimmered into the room, kissing little F’s face; he opened his eyes and smiled, and out poured bright, loving energy that just flooded me.

Yeah, I was tired and prone to being overly emotional with every emotion all at once, but it was moving. You are absolutely, without question, more than enough, all by yourself, and always, my heart said to him. But it also managed to slip me a quiet revelation that one day, I need to be enough all by myself, too. I’m not sure I ever even felt quite that way before motherhood. It’s good to have goals.

Right now, I am so enjoying living in the fullness that is mostly this amazing little person, with nearly every choice I make, professionally, socially, and emotionally, pivoting around him. Right now, it’s enough to consciously work one day at a time at one day feeling enough as just me, myself. And trust that as time continues to flow that I will at least find solace in evolving reasons to keep a freezer stash of (healthy) cookies.

Gluten-free vegan cinnamon date “blondie” bars
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup pitted dates (Medjool are amazing, but any)
  2. ⅓ cup plus 1 Tablespoon orange juice or water
  3. 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons flax meal/ground flax in 5 tablespoons water)
  4. ½ cup almond butter (sunbutter will work, too)
  5. ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  6. 1 cup chickpea flour
  7. ¾ cup quick oats
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. 2 flax eggs or eggs
  10. ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  11. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  12. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  13. ½ tp ¾ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Combine dates and water or orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil; cook 10 minutes, stirring, or until most liquid is absorbed. If desired, pulse in a food processor until reaching a fairly smooth, jam-like consistency.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray or parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Transfer date mixture to a large mixing bowl and whisk in flax eggs. Add almond butter and mix until well mixture is smooth.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl, stirring to combine. Spoon batter (will be thick) into prepared pan and spread out until smooth and even. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are slightly puffed and browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

One pot chili vegetable quinoa

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So I lied, but I didn’t mean to. I’m talking about the other week…weeks ago now, actually. That time when I jinxed myself by reveling in how healthy our immune systems have (had, actually) been since little F took over the (our) world. (Basking a bit but not boasting, or crowing, right? Please reassure me there was no crowing.)

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Sick (1 of 3)In any case, you don’t have to be superstitious to wisely choose not to tempt fate, and I am both a little superstitious and apt to be unwise, so the deck was set. Shortly after that last post, I woke up at 5:45 am with what felt like the beginnings of a cold. By 5:45 pm I had a low grade fever, a chesty cough, full-on chills and body aches. Maybe I’m whining just a tad when I say so, but it was agony. And one week later, when we finally stopped referring to “this flu-like virus” and started cursing the flu, it was still agony. 

The worst part was, little F came down with it, too. The first few days really hammered him, sweet boy, and even included extra features like vomiting at the onset. I couldn’t leave him even half awake for a moment without tears. We all want our mamas when we’re sick.

Cuddles are precious, not least feverish clingy cuddles, but the sweetness of these tends to be mostly drowned out in worry. Adding to that worry was worry for those we’d unwittingly exposed, including those same lovelies who had been accidentally misled just the week previous by  omissions in this brownie recipe (now corrected!). Ouch. Reading book after book, Little F and I kept gravitating to reprises of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.

This chili vegetable quinoa was on our meal plan for that week. It’s an easy, colorful, fun-to-vary, comforting one pot meal I love. It’s not worth elaborating, but I do think the placement of chili before vegetable quinoa is important, by the way. Because it’s not chili, more like chili-flavored, imho. And on that note, the addition of the raisins near the end heightens the flavors, to me.

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While we were sick, having just completed our big shop for the week, ironically my dad sent me this article from the Daily Telegraph on superfood quinoa and its destiny to feed the world. But you know how it can go…when you are feeling the worst and most need a hearty boost of health…that’s when all you want is plain dry toast (me) or cheerios (F) or nothing (both of us, depending on the day). Our quinoa power supper(s) –because you make plenty of leftovers– was destined to wait until we were more markedly on the mend, which is, at last, now. And now it tastes amazing.

This dish is actually a remake that became its own. It started as a chili chicken couscous from Everyday Epicurean, a cookbook my little sister bought me years and years ago and I still love, even though since going meatless and dairy-free so many recipes are off the table now. Maybe especially so, because the dishes are simple, elegant and sumptuous and therefore so much fun to create a plant-based variation of.

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I already said I love this rustic, hearty dish, but the truth is until recently I had forgotten how much I loved it…previosly in its original chicken and fewer vegetables version and especially now. Lately I’ve been going back into the archives of “what we used to eat” and having fun converting those dishes. Sort of old-becomes-new.

Speaking of, old-becomes-new may well be one of several key motifs floating through how we approach things this year. Investing in the little things. Little kindnesses, little steps toward big goals. I also find myself being more mindful of practicing mindfulness to get through craziness than I ever have before. And rediscovering old-becomes-new.

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For example, I’ve been unearthing pre-pregnancy clothes I had tucked away and forgotten about. Yay! They’re “new”. Also I’ve been resurrecting old clothes I’d similarly forgotten about that perhaps go back as far as high school–my sister’s high school experience most likely, since if they’re worth saving they’re probably her hand-me-downs. Hooray! New.

The reason for this is stinginess is traditionally Dave and I limit splurging to athletic gear and healthy groceries. But amid these rediscoveries I’ve come close to complimenting us as having been pioneers in the minimalist movement. Small house, 30 items of clothing you see again and again, since way back, decades ago…just kidding. I don’t really think we were pioneers. And even if I did believe that, I would be careful how much of a compliment I gave us. I do not want to tempt the jinxing powers of the universe. I will stick to keeping faith in modest, day-to-day home-cooking and quinoa.

One-pot chili vegetable quinoa
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 teaspoons olive oil or cooking spray
  2. 1 onion, chopped
  3. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  6. 2 teaspoons chili powder
  7. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  8. 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  9. 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  10. 3 cups vegetable broth
  11. 3 cups water
  12. 1 zucchini, chopped
  13. 1 medium carrot, chopped
  14. 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  15. 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  16. 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  17. 1/2 cup raisins
  18. 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  19. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Coat a large stockpot with cooking spray or the 2 teaspoons olive oil and heat. Add onion and cook, stirring regularly, approximately 3 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook a further 2 minutes.
  2. Add cinnamon paprika, chili powder, and tomato paste. Stir continuously a few minutes over medium-low heat until fragrant.
  3. Add tomatoes, quinoa, broth, water, and all the vegetables (through pepper). Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the chickpeas, raisins and 1/4 cup cilantro and cook, stirring occasionally, approximately 5 minutes. Serve in bowls garnished with remaining cilantro.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Asian-inspired coconut curry butternut soup

Last week I promised I’d commit to reining in rambling in favor of at least one, once-in-a-blue-moon concise, food over fancy oriented post, and here it is. Maybe butternut soup isn’t typically outstanding for its originality; I mean, how can you really go wrong when it comes to roasting squash…any winter squash? All you have to do is season with a little salt and pepper, puree with water/both, and you’re pretty much good. But even so, this particular combination is a guide I keep returning to. One which begs to be played with every time, so no need to even measure really. It’s especially good with the inclusion of frozen Halloween pumpkin.

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When I was born, I had a hole in my diaphragm, and the story goes my parents knew things were serious when they were asked if they’d like to see a priest. My father looked out the hospital window and apparently saw clouds lift to reveal Mt. Rainier, and knew we’d be OK. Needless to say, I was one fortunate incubator kid who got to survive. Even so, growing up I was regularly very sick, especially easily afflicted with respiratory illnesses. It was just an accepted part of life that I missed several weeks of school each year. As I grew, it became just as accepted that I’d be on heavy rounds of antibiotics every year…3 weeks in fall and 3 more in spring. Things ameliorated somewhat thanks to two things I loved: running, and our family dog, whom we adopted when I was about 12. Love is strong and determined, and I wasn’t going to let propensity to allergies get in the way.

Over the past several years, things have changed most dramatically. I haven’t been on any antibiotics since before little F, now 3, was born. It could be little more than coincidence, but that’s also when we gave up dairy, and went meatless. Our reasons weren’t for based on my sinus history, but the unexpected bonus was too good to take lightly, plus we love the way we eat. I’m not saying that meat and dairy can’t have a place in one’s diet…just that it’s been beautifully agreeable to me. These there years I’ve barely had a cold.

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yogaToday, when I do feel the immunity starting to flail, sinuses threaten to flare up, or my throat start scratching, I’ve got a whole bunch of go-to kitchen prescriptions, like this one. It’s aromatic, soothing and flavorful with just the right bite. And if that isn’t enough, now I can start adding a little special quality time in with little F, who yesterday practiced yoga with our kids’ yoga cards and “the guys” for FORTY minutes (!). I was so proud I can’t resist tacking that little tidbit on. It was beyond heartwarming, seeing “the guys”, led by the indefatigable Monkey, striking their versions of mountain, down dog, and child’s poses. That’s all. Next post, I have yet another chickpea flour recipe to share…some date-sweetened blondies I’ve had in mind for a long time and finally got to work together. I will probably attach it to a very loosely related, somewhat flighty emotional string of reflections and anecdotes. 🙂

 

Asian-inspired coconut curry butternut soup
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Ingredients
  1. 1 medium butternut squash
  2. 1 acorn squash (or other smaller winter squash)
  3. 1 medium yellow onion
  4. 3 cloves garlic, mined
  5. 1 1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and grated
  6. 1 tablespoon curry powder
  7. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  8. 1 tablespoon lime juice
  9. 2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  10. 2 cups water
  11. 1 cup coconut milk (or more, according to taste)
  12. 1/3 cup cilantro leaves
  13. dash red pepper flakes
  14. sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  15. 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place whole squash on a baking sheet and roast until the skin is papery and a fork inserted into 2 or 3 different spots reveals very tender flesh, about 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle and peel away the skin, discarding the seeds.
  2. Heat a stockpot with cooking spray. Add onion and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook one minute further, stirring constantly.
  3. Add squash and all remaining ingredients except for garbanzo beans, if using. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender in batches and blend until smooth. Add garbanzo beans and heat, stirring, until warmed through prior to serving.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Vegan lentil bolognese (and a whole bunch of rambling)

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For a few weeks running, I’ve fallen into a habit of going off on personal tangents. One more week won’t hurt, right?  Next week I will make a concerted effort to post food with minimal commentary about anything outside of said recipe. Promise. Unless something REALLY compelling comes up that needs to be logged, diary-style.

This week I’m thinking about lentils. For anyone impatient with personal ramblings yet still willing to visit here, time to skip to the recipe is now. I first worked on this recipe for Ancient Harvest and now it’s a regular. It’s easy, satisfying, colorful, variable, vegan, plant-powerful, and delicious.

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It’s funny, the little things that trigger memories, even those we didn’t mean to store. Sometimes such a blessing. Sometimes a trigger for a cloud. Always, an opportunity for learning and reflection.

Last Thursday I went to the police station to be fingerprinted. My teaching license is up for renewal this year, and last month I was notified that my background check is no longer on file and fingerprints need be resubmitted. On reflection that’s standard–because, time passing–but in the moment I interpreted the email as, great, CDE LOST my fingerprints, and what a hassle. I was a little prickly, in small part because I had also been “lost” in the system regarding one writing contract and was months behind on getting paid; on top of that, a check from another contract had been lost in the mail. These things combined, and I concluded morosely that I was steadily being deleted from existence.

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At the station, a brisk woman ably rolled my fingers and thumbs on the card while I tried to hide my crankiness by appearing absorbed by the boxes printed on the card. My eyes rested on the standard tiny square marked “R”, and for a moment I disappeared. Not quite deja vu, not time travel (though, wow, if only!)…you know the brain space kind of place I mean.

I was six years old. My father and I were parked outside the small local elementary school, the only one in our then small town. We were dropping off books for a sale. As my father hauled the boxes over to donations, I hopped into the back of an open truck to browse through books displayed there. I remember loving the old, worn ones best, thumbing through beguiling, dusty, yellowed pages, breathing in their smells.

“What ARE you?!” A man’s insistent, aggravated voice barked me out of my mini-reverie. I looked up and took in his ruddy face, purple and pulsating at the temples. Even then I could see he was coarse, naive and rude. But I still felt less-than facing him, and he scared me.

“What ARE you?!” the man repeated. I looked around, confirming he was directing all that barbed anger toward me. I wasn’t sure I understood the question. Undeterred, he continued, “What are you? Jap, Chink, Mexican?”  “I’m-I’m American,” I finally stammered, as I’d been taught. His uproarious laughter in response…I guess I’ve magnified it in my mind, but it was deeply unsettling. Prejudice wasn’t new to me, but this was the first time I’d felt such electric loathing directed at me like that, and from an adult. Mess that he was, I would given him respect, regarded him as authority.

What happened next was nothing noteworthy. My dad came back, and we went home. The incident lasted no more than two minutes, but decades later I realized it stayed with me, retained some power to rattle me. And found myself staring at a fingerprint card, asking myself, again, the same question that fuming man asked me.

I’ve marked N/A in a designated box, checked many boxes, or left box blank…I’m not  Black, Hispanic, White/Caucasian, Asian, or even Other as it’s qualified by Pacific Islander. I get that it’s useful information to include for census. But every time I’m faced with the box, leaving the blank box I avert my eyes and for a moment I feel small and drab.

It’s common and temptingly easy to analogize with food. I mean, I do it ALL THE TIME. But societally, it’s intriguing, right? Positive, well-intended comparisons that are never immune to loathing and dismantlement…like those for our country’s diversity, from melting pot to salad bowl. Negative, vindictive, taunting ones that stick…Oreo, Twinkie, egg. In today’s uneasy climate, hateful stereotypes seem to be finding new force and freedoms, and this makes me so, so sad. What’s immeasurably reassuring is I know I’m so, so not alone.

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This past weekend I followed the marches with longing, awed by the masses uniting peacefully around the world as WE. In my kitchen I made lentil bolognese and decided on a whim that I wouldn’t stoop to trying to answer “what are you” as if a one-word box could be a satisfactory response, but that I would play the game. You know, the food analogy one. So this week I am lentils. And why not? Lentils are soft, quiet, but tougher than you might think. Sure they easily go unnoticed. But lentils are hardy and sustaining, enduring and versatile. If you mistake them as drab then perhaps you haven’t paused to appreciate the richness of their colors.

Vegan lentil bolognese
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 1 large onion, diced
  3. 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  4. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
  6. 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  7. 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  8. 1/4 cup tomato paste
  9. 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  10. 1 1/4 cup red lentils
  11. 1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
  12. 1/3 cup white wine
  13. 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped plus extra for garnish
  14. 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  15. Sea salt and pepper to taste
  16. Pasta of choice, to serve
Instructions
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, bell pepper, celery and zucchini and cook slowly until the vegetables soften and onions turn golden, about 10 minutes.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in tomato paste and cook 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, a further 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the lentils, broth, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 30 minutes.
  4. During last 10 minutes while sauce is simmering, prepare pasta according to package directions.
  5. Stir parsley and basil to sauce and serve over pasta. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

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