Skip to content

Ground Beef and Lentil Soup with Rice

November 26, 2013

lentil ground beef soup

Finally, finally, it’s cold enough in San Antonio for soup. (Not that being cold is a requirement in our house for soup, we eat soup in the summer, too, because we love soup.) Still, there’s nothing better than cozying up to a nice steamy bowl of soup on a cool day, and this soup is perfect snuggle up comfort food. I’m in the mood for a top five list, so here we go. Top five reasons to love this soup:

1. Comforting, filling and cheap! (three reasons in one)

2. The balsamic vinegar at the end gives it a little bit of a “hmm… yum… what’s in this soup?!” quality.

3. Super easy and quick to make

4. If you use extra lean ground beef, it’s pretty good for you.

5. (Should be #1) It’s lick-the-bowl delicious.

I adapted this soup to make it a few less steps than the original recipe calls for.

Ground Beef and Lentil Soup with Rice


1 lb.  ground beef

2 tsp. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1 T minced garlic

1 T dried parsley

1 tsp. dried thyme or 3 fresh sprigs of fresh time

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

4 c. low sodium beef stock

2 c. low sodium chicken stock

2 cups water

plus more as needed

2/3 cup brown lentils

1/2 cup rice

salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

2 T balsamic vinegar


1. Heat 2tsp. olive oil in a frying pan and cook the ground beef until it’s well browned. Break up into small pieces and transfer to a large pot.

2.  Add another tsp. of olive oil to the pan and add carrots, onions and celery. Saute until the veggies are starting to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, thyme, cumin, and parsley and saute for another 2 minutes.

3. Transfer the veggies to the pot. Add the 2 cups of water to the frying pan to swish out the bits of veggies and garlic stuck to the pan and add that water to the soup pot as well.

4. Add beef broth, chicken broth and lentils and rice to the soup pot and simmer on low for about an hour.

5. Taste the soup, if the flavor seems too salty or concentrated, add a bit of water, if it seems underseasoned, add salt.

6. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes and taste again, correcting seasonings if needed. Add balsamic vinegar to finish and enjoy!
PS – The second time I made this I added about 1/2 cup more water and a potato diced small, and it was great that way as well!

Individual Key Lime Cheesecakes (gluten-free)

November 8, 2013

key lime cheesecake

My birthday was last Tuesday…. Happy Birthday to me! I offered to make my own birthday meal because I enjoy cooking and knew it would take some stress off of E to not have to do it. I knew I would make something lemon or lime flavored. While I certainly enjoy chocolate. (See here, here, and here) I love lemon and lime desserts even more. (case in point: here, here and here). I’m the one at the dessert buffet happily loading up my plate with lime tartlets and lemon bars while my friends are devouring the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and a side of chocolate.  In our house, birthday cakes are always gluten free so husband/dad can enjoy them too.

I will confess that I was hoping to make a more elaborate key lime dessert for my birthday, but (insert standard disclaimer about good intentions, being too busy, blah blah blah).

This dessert doesn’t take much time to whip up, and the results are very satisfying. Limey and creamy! The gingersnap crust gives it a little extra something, but it still has that graham cracker crust feel that we all associate with key lime pie.

This cheesecake can easily be made as one large cheesecake, just increase the baking time. Also, to further simplify, pour the filling into a pre-made pie crust.

Happy 35 to me!

Individual Key Lime Cheesecakes


1. 8 oz gluten-free gingersnap cookies

2. 1/2 stick butter

3. 16 oz. cream cheese, softened

4. 1/2 cup sugar

5. Two large eggs

6. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice

7. 1 T. grated key lime zest

8. 1 T vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Prepare muffin tin with 12 paper liners

3. Make crust

i. pulse the gingersnaps in a food processor until they are the consistency of sand, and transfer to a bowl.

ii. add the melted butter and stir. The mixture will not be very wet but will hold together loosely.

iii. spoon the crust in to the muffin liners and press down to form the crust. (Note: I wanted a fairly thin crust on mine, so I used about 2 T of crust per cheesecake which resulted in some leftover crumbs. We’ve been sprinkling the leftover crumbs on pancakes and yogurt to use them up. Alternatively, you could make a thicker crust.)

4. Make the filling

i. with a stand mixer, mix the cream cheese, sugar, lime juice, zest, and vanilla until thoroughly combined

ii. add eggs one at a time and mix until just combined

5. Divide filling equally among the prepared muffin tins.

6. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until the filling is just set (it’s ok if it wobbles a tiny bit in the center)

7. Refrigerate  for at least 3 hours before enjoying.

Source: Filling adapted from Kraft Recipes 

Torticas de coco / Mini Coconut Cakes

October 19, 2013


This weekend, in honor of our Colombian visitor, I wanted to make a few Colombian treats for him and Elias to share at one of the speaking opportunities. I made three different Colombian sweets, none of which I’ve made before.

Behind door number one was a dish called enyucado. My version was a disaster. Complete and utter fail. Sweet Elias hemmed and hawed before I got it out of him that “No, this tastes nothing like what it should.” Don’t know what went wrong, but I’ll be doing some research.

Behind door number two: edible, but not what I was hoping for. Dulce de leche cookies. They tasted fine, but looked sloppy. I’ve double and triple checked the recipe, but something was definitely not right there.  More research…

Behind door number three: these mini coconut cakes. Win! They are sweet and full of coconut flavor and go really well with a cup of coffee. I made them in mini muffin tins which made them just the right size for a taste. Unlike the disastrous enyucado and the cookies, these also store really well in an airtight container. Another advantage to these? One bowl.

Torticas de coco – Makes 36 mini torticas


4 cups of shredded, sweetened coconut

1 cup all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

generous pinch of salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line molds with paper liners

2. Mix all ingredients together until well combined. The mixture will be rather stiff and firm. (not soupy)

3. Fill paper lined cups to heaping. (These rise, but not much)

4. Bake until set and golden brown, 12-18 minutes

Source: Adapted from My Colombian Recipes 

Lemongrass Coconut Chicken and Vegetables (Kashi frozen dinner copycat)

October 14, 2013

lemongrass coconut chicken and vegetables

This week Elias and I celebrated our fifth anniversary (yay!) and in that time, I’ve come to learn the code for his rating system for foods. Simply asking “what do you think of this?” will get you nowhere. He’s a polite man, a sweetheart. His answer is always “Delicious!” However, if the “delicious” is also accompanied by a “MMMMMMM hmmmmmm” well, that’s a four star plate right there. If there is an “MMMMMMM hmmmmmmm” AND a “What’s in this?!” the dish is four and a half stars. If there is the MMMMM hmmmmm, a “What’s in this?” and a suggestion that the dish be made for company sometime, then I know the dish is a five star, home run, must make again dish, which is the rating this lemongrass coconut chicken with vegetables received.

Not only that, but it’s easy and quick to prepare, and healthy. I will be making this again, and I will probably play around with some of the proportions adding more veggies and/or swapping out some of the chicken for extra firm tofu. When I do, I’ll try to remember to post it in the comments.

I found this dish after eating the Kashi frozen meal and loving it. The homemade version so much better because it has real lemongrass, and more sauce. I served this with my cilantro-lime rice and thought they complimented each other beautifully. Buen Provecho!

Lemongrass Coconut Chicken and Vegetables

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 2 pieces of lemongrass (each about 6 inches long) – bruise the lemongrass first by crushing it under a knife to release its flavor
  • 1 cup of lite canned coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  •  1 heaping cup (about 4 medium) sliced carrots
  • 2 heaping cups broccoli florets
  • 1 heaping cup of snow peas
  • zest of one lime

To serve

  • shredded coconut
  • lime wedges
  • cooked rice or quinoa
  • chopped cilantro


1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Pan fry the chicken pieces until they are no longer pink (about 6 minutes).

2. Add the lemongrass, coconut milk, broth, ginger, and lime zest, to the pan and bring to a boil.

3. Add the vegetables if they are fresh. If they are frozen, wait until the last 5 minutes of cooking time so they don’t become mushy.

4. Reduce to medium, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender, and the broth has absorbed the lemongrass flavor.

5. Serve over rice. Top with a sprinkle of shredded coconut, cilantro, and additional splash of lime juice, if desired.

Source: Adapted from Once a Month Meals 

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Tangy Vanilla Cream (Gluten Free)

September 16, 2013

flourless chocolate cake

If you’re going to come back to a cooking blog after more than six weeks away, come back with cake, I say. I’ve been away finishing the manuscript on my book (no, not a cookbook… ha!). I’m glad to have a little more leisure time to dedicate to the blogs.

When our dinner hosts the other night asked me to bring dessert, I was thrilled. Not only does making a dessert for a party provide an opportunity to do something special, but I know I can make something gluten-free for Elias to enjoy as well. I had a cake in mind I wanted to try but at the last minute realized it called for an eight inch pan. No can do. I am sort of a minimalist when It comes to baking: If I don’t have the proper pan, I don’t make the recipe. The internet is full of recipes to try, and I’m not the type to run right out for a pan just to make one recipe. So, it was back to square one. I knew I wanted some sort of chocolate gluten-free cake. My old standby is fantastic and easy to make, but I’ve made it a lot recently, and I was up for something new. I passed by a lot of gluten free chocolate cakes for being too high maintenance and taking time I simply didn’t have on Saturday. Many involved whipping up egg whites separately from the yolks, delicate folding in, blah blah blah. It’s the truth: sometimes you’re interested in whipping up eggwhites and gently folding them into a batter, and sometimes you’re not. Gotta roll with it. I digress.

This cake not only uses whole eggs, it uses one bowl for the cake and one bowl for the cream. Not only that, but the cake part requires only a whisk, not a mixer.

Before I get to the recipe, a few little helpful pointers in case you’re thinking about making this cake:

  • Don’t expect it to taste cakey. There’s no flour (of any kind) in it. It tastes dense and fudgy, kind of like an undercooked brownie. Very intense chocolate flavor. If that’s not sounding tasty, move right along.
  • Because of the aforementioned super duper fudgy and intense chocolate flavor, just a very small sliver will be satisfying, thus, I’d say this cake easily serves 8, and possibly 12 people.
  • The recipe called for a tangy whipped cream to go alongside it. When I was making the cream, I realized how much it resembled this cream. In retrospect, I wish I had made that cream instead of the cream that goes with it. Not only is that cream a little more interesting with the orange zest, but it also doesn’t require a mixer, and I could have made the whole darn dessert with no mixer. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. That’s the cream I’ll be making if I make this cake again.
  • Also, re: the cream — the addition of the sour cream makes it less stable and less fluffy. This caused me all kinds of worry when transporting it. (It was fine, but as I said, next time, I’ll do the other one.)
  • I made the mistake of trying to transfer this cake from the springform pan base to a serving platter. It ended up cracking and breaking and I had to smoosh it together on the plate. I wouldn’t say this cake can’t be transferred, but it should be transferred with a lot more care and grace than I displayed.

Okay! Without further ado… here it goes!

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks (1 C) butter, cut into pieces plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-2 T confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)

For the vanilla cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or creme fraiche if you’re fancy)
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla

Make the cake: 

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch springform pan and dust with the cocoa powder. (I buttered only and did not dust with cocoa powder. It was fine.)

2. Melt butter, cream (1/4 cup of cream) over medium low heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the chocolate and keep stirring until chocolate is just melted. Be careful not to scorch or burn the chocolate. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool a bit.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.

4. Transfer the batter to the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until the batter is puffed and set and cracked on top.

5. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 1 hour before removing

6. Transfer to a plate (carefully!) and dust with the sugar.


1. Beat the heavy cream with the sour cream and sour cream until soft peaks form. (It helps to have the bowl of the mixer and the beater very cold). Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and continue to beat for 10 seconds more.

2. Serve the cake with the fresh cream and berries, if desired.

SONY DSCRecipe adapted from: Real Simple 

Melissa d’Arabian’s Lentil Quinoa Salad

July 29, 2013


July almost slipped by with nary a Mrs. Smith Cooks post! I spent almost three full and weeks in Chicago while Elias was starting his Master of Divinity program at Indiana Wesleyan University. One of the more glorious parts of the vacation time, for me, was watching the Food Network. Not only do I not have cable on which to watch Food Network, I rarely have time. My mom was good enough to DVR some shows in advance. While I didn’t get to them all (On my second to last day there, my dad reviewed his DVR queue and proclaimed “Um, there are 27 Barefoot Contessas on here. Are you planning to watch them?) I really enjoyed catching up on some of my favorite Food Network shows. One of my absolute favorites is Ten Dollar Dinners. Not only does the theme appeal to me ( good food for families on a budget!) but the recipes are always familiar, but with a little twist.

This quinoa/lentil salad is fresh, super healthy (protein!) and quick to make.  It doesn’t win any awards for being pretty to look at, but it tastes great. I have to say, I like it even better than the other quinoa salad I posted on Mrs. Smith Cooks while ago. I’ve made this several times, and here’s what I’ve learned about it:

  • You know how a lot of times I say “This recipe is perfect for customizing! Just throw in what you have, and it will be great!” This recipe is not one of them. I’ve made it without all the ingredients, trying to substitute other things or just leave them out, and it sometimes comes out boring.  So,  if you, like me, read this recipe and think “I have most of this stuff in my pantry right now, I’ll just make it without the X” I urge you to wait, buy whatever is missing and then make it. There’s something about this salad that just “comes together”
  • The salad gets better overnight as it chills and the dressing really soaks into the quinoa.
  • If you read the 145 reviews on the original recipe (raise your hand if you always do that. Me too.) You will note that many people urge cooking the lentils and/or the quinoa in broth ahead of time, claiming it makes the flavor so much better. I tried this and disagree. I don’t think there’s a noticeable difference in this recipe when either or both the lentils/quinoa are cooked in broth. Save your broth for something where it matters.
  • I’ve never tried this with canned lentils, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
  • This is the original recipe, doubled. It didn’t make sense to me to make such a small portion when this salad keeps so well in the fridge and actually gets better over time.


Lentil and Quinoa Salad


1 cup quinoa + 2 1/2 cups water (or 4 cups cooked quinoa)
1 cup lentils
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or other neutral flavored oil)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
zest of two limes
4 green onions, chopped
1 medium sized handful of chopped fresh cilantro leaves


1. Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly

2. Add quinoa to a microwave safe bowl and mix with the water.

3. Cover and microwave on high for 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed

4. Let stand for two minutes and fluff with a fork

5. Quinoa should be cooked through but have a little bit of bite to it. (a lot like rice)


1. Put lentils in a pot and cover with about an inch of cold water

2. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender but not mushy



1. Whisk together the Dijon and vinegar. Drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Add lime zest, garlic powder and salt/pepper


Mix the cooled quinoa and lentils, green onions and cilantro together. Pour the dressing over everything, toss to coat. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary. Serve cold.

Adapted from Melissa d’Arabian

Close to Tandoori Chicken

June 9, 2013

tandoori chicken on the grill

True tandoori chicken, an Indian favorite, is made in a cylindrical “tandoor” or clay oven. This variation is done on the grill and is adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe. I used regular yogurt, cooked it on a grill (this time — I’ve also made it in the oven… I think the grill is easier and with our 100 degree Texas days it’s a way better option than heating up the house.) If you have the spices available  (I feel a post about spices coming on) this is an easy option to break out of the normal “er… what are we having for supper” routine. I made this with some fantastic butter chickpeas (recipe coming up soon!) and basmanti rice and we were in business, y’all. I still feel a little funny when I say y’all, but I’m going to roll with it here.  I think this would be fabulous with extra firm tofu. Tandoori chicken is wonderfully spiced and different then the every day fare. Give it a try and let me know!

NOTE: If you, like me, dip your finger in the yogurt/spice mixture to taste it before putting it on the chicken and grilling it, you will say “BLECH! THIS IS BITTER!” Something weird happens when it cooks, though, and the spices mellow and the end result is perfect, and not bitter at all.

Close to Tandoori Chicken 


2 lbs Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts (or thighs)

1 cup plain yogurt

1 T turmeric

1 t. coriander

1 T paprika

1/2 T ground cumin

1 t. ground cardamom

zest of one lime

Salt and pepper

1. Mix spices with the yogurt and lime zest.

2. Pat the chicken breasts dry and season with salt and pepper (don’t be afraid to use a liberal hand on this step)

3. Coat the chicken pieces with the yogurt mixture

4. Let the yogurt mixture sit in the fridge until ready to grill. (Note – One of the times I made this I did not let the chicken sit at all in the mixture and grilled it right away… there was not a significant difference in the flavor when it rested in the mixture for a significant time.)

5. Place on hot grill (preheated to medium high heat) and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

5. Serve with rice, naan bread and vegetables.

Source: Adapted from Rachel Ray