Lentil Taco Salad

This meatless version of taco filling is the perfect topping for any taco salad.  However, the inspiration behind this recipe was from some lentil quesadillas I made a few years ago in a cooking class I lead for 9 and 10 year olds.  They loved them and so did I!  
For this recipe you can most definitely prepare dried lentils according to their packaging however, I am but one person and can't really rationalize making a whole batch of lentils for just me.  Plus, using canned lentils speeds up the process tenfold and who has time for that during the work week?  
I will definitely be making this recipe again and again for an endless string of vegetarian/Mexican dinners!

Lentil Taco Salad
Recipe by Ali Caron
Makes 4-6 servings

Taco Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1-2  medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can low sodium lentils
1 tablespoon taco seasoning (or combine smoked paprika, chili powder and/or Sriracha to taste)

For Salad:
Shredded cheese
Greek yogurt

Add olive oil, shallots and carrots to medium saucepan over low-medium heat.  Stirring frequently, cook until tender.  Add garlic, lentils and seasonings and stir until heated through.  Use filling to top salads, tacos or quesadillas.
To prepare salad, add lettuce to bowl.  Top with about 3/4 cup lentils, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes and a dollop of Greek yogurt.  Enjoy!


Mini Fruit Pizzas!

Sometimes at family gatherings I am put in charge of dessert and I never know quite what to make, although I do always try to incorporate fruit into the mix.  For this recipe, I decided to use pre-made cookie dough for two reasons; 1) it’s easier and 2) the cookies come out symmetrical.  Since the cookies and frosting are slightly sweet, tart berries and mint pair nicely together for a light and refreshing treat.  Not to mention how gorgeous they look, with each cookie decorated slightly different and a touch of green. 
To make things even easier, if possible, I prepared the cookies and frosting ahead of time.  I packed them up separately in Tupperware and brought them along with the fresh berries and mint to my brother’s house and assembled them there since I wasn’t sure how well they would travel.  They were a hit and I’m sure they would be great for a kid’s party, too!

Mini Fruit Pizzas
Recipe by Ali Caron, RD

1 package pre-made cookie dough

For the Frosting:
8oz cream cheese, softened
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup powdered sugar

Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
Fresh mint leaves

Prepare cookies as per instructions on package.  Allow to cool.
Beat together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add in vanilla extract and powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
Once cookies are cool, spread about a tablespoon on each cookie and decorate with a few different types of berries.  Add one small mint leaf to all or most cookies.  Serve immediately.

Tip: Make ahead and store cookies and frosting in separate air tight containers.  Keep the frosting refrigerated.  Decorate when ready!


Minestrone Soup

I considered waiting to post this recipe until it cooled off a bit weather-wise but it's just too good not to share!  And so easy!  I find chopping vegetables therapeutic (it's one of my favorite things to do, is that sad?) and there is something so comforting about making a big pot of soup.  While making soup may be something cozy to do during colder months, the vegetables this time of year are just so delicious and really make this soup stand out.  This vegetarian soup has something for everyone and is hearty enough to stand on it's own.  I prefer to make my soups as low-sodium as possible and add just a touch of salt to taste at the end to really control how much salt I am getting, especially with the canned chickpeas, broth and tomatoes in this recipe, the sodium could really add up.  Serve it for dinner or bring it to work for lunch.  Your heart will thank you!

Minestrone Soup
Serves 10-12
Recipes by Ali Caron, RD

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tsp dried oregano
1 can low sodium chick peas, drained and rinsed
2-3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 14.5oz can "no salt added" diced tomatoes
1 cup elbow macaroni
Optional: parmesan cheese

Directions:  In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add celery, onion and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes or until vegetables start to soften, stirring frequently.  Add zucchini, chick peas, garlic, salt, pepper and dried oregano and continue to stir for 1-2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, macaroni and 2 cup of vegetable broth to pot.  Stir, cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add another 1-2 cups of broth if needed.  Continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until vegetables and pasta are fork tender.  Serve and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Nutrition Facts: 139 Calories, 3.6g Fat, 23g Carbohydrate, 4g Protein, 4g Fiber, 364mg Sodium (or 497mg if added 1/2 tsp salt), 315mg Potassium