Red Lentils (Side Dish Recipe)

Most of the meals I plan include some sort of side that consists of either rice or potatoes. I love rice and like potatoes. My husband loves potatoes and tolerates rice. It becomes a delicate balance as I have to draw a line somewhere otherwise risk becoming short order chef — which my life just doesn’t allow the time and energy for.

Back in early Sept I attended a women’s retreat with my church and Saturday night we were served a most delicious meal of roasted chicken and vegetables, alongside lentils. Having never had lentils before, except for maybe in soup (which is where I discovered lentils are typically used) my mind was blown. They were incredible! I HAD to figure out how to make them myself.

Fast forward a couple of months…I took my first run at lentils in side dish fashion. I’m quiet pleased to say they turned out as incredible as I remembered them from the retreat. And, what might be even better is that my husband is 100% on board. FINALLY I have another staple to add in the potatoes and rice rotation!


1 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
2 T olive oil (or you could use butter)
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (could use a can of diced as well)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp fresh pepper
salt, to taste

-heat oil over medium heat in deep skillet, saute onion and garlic until onions are beginning to brown
-add tomatoes and cook for a couple minutes
-season with turmeric, cumin and fresh pepper
-add lentils and chicken stock, cook, uncovered, until lentils are desired firmness (30’ish minutes), stirring occasionally
-add salt to taste and serve warm

There will be a little bit of sauciness left after the lentils have reached their desired doneness (some people like them a touch firmer while others prefer them pretty soft – the choice is yours – I tested mine along the way to determine how ‘done’ I preferred them). This sauciness is wonderful to soak up with some grilled chicken so don’t be afraid to flood your plate!

Lentils are rich in dietary fiber, a good source of protein and folate, and high in iron. They certainly have a lot more going for them than my beloved rice…or potatoes.

It’s so awesome when an adventure in the kitchen turns into something that will be a frequent flyer in your meal planning. Give this one a try – it’s wonderful – and easy!

Light at the end of the tunnel, the work week is nearly over!
Have a great weekend!

Italian Sausage and Potato Soup

We had a gorgeous couple of Fall days recently. Unseasonably warm and absolutely wonderful. It was short lived and we are back to weather more representative of the season: cool and damp. It’s not my favorite, but when life hands you crummy weather, make soup!

This is a new recipe that will be going in the soup rotation at my house (I’m not certain what that rotation is exactly – if I’m lucky there’s enough winter to make my favorite soups a couple times, and others that were just good enough to make the cut, once – but you get my drift).


1 lb spicy Italian sausage
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
pinch of red pepper flakes (if you desire some added heat, if not, skip it)
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 pound of red potatoes, diced small
3 cups baby spinach
1/4-1/2 cup cream
salt & pepper to taste

Brown sausage in soup pot, crumble while cooking into desired size
Remove sausage from pot
Add garlic, onion and carrot and cook until soft (add in olive oil if needed)
Season with oregano, basil, pepper flakes, salt and pepper, stir to combine
Stir in broth and water. Add bay leaf and potatoes. Return sausage to pot.
Bring to a boil, stir well, cover, reduce heat and cook until potatoes are soft (then keep warm until ready to serve)
Just prior to serving, add spinach and cook until it begins to wilt.
Add cream. Taste and adjust seasonings (i.e. salt and pepper)

Serve with cheesy garlic bread, or half a panini on the side. This is a hardy soup so you won’t need a lot…but what fun is soup if there isn’t something to dunk in it?

Psst…this is another recipe that is good if you are stocking the freezer. Follow the recipe until you are just short of adding the spinach and cream – and freeze. When you are ready to eat this one, thaw, bring to a boil, drop the heat down, and finish the last 2 steps (spinach and cream) and Presto! Dinner on the table in a flash!

Stay warm out there, my friends!

Crock Pot Mexican Chicken

Busy week? Short on time? Out of energy by the time dinner rolls around? Here’s a crock-pot recipe that is quick, simple and will fit right in with that hectic schedule.


2 chicken breasts
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin slices
1 bed bell pepper, cut into thin slices
1 medium onion, cut into thin slices
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
1/8 tsp salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced

Place all ingredients, except cilantro and lime juice, in crock pot. Cook on low until chicken is fully cooked and shreds easily (crock-pots tend to vary, mine takes right around 4 hours for this recipe).
Once cooked, remove chicken from crock-pot and shred.
Return to crock-pot along with cilantro and lime juice.
Stir to combine all ingredients
Taste and add additional salt, if needed

Serve in warm tortillas taco style, top a salad or tostada, fill a quesadilla, create a chicken burrito bowl…the possibilities are endless.
This recipe also freezes well so don’t hesitate to make a double batch and throw half in the freezer for an even quicker homemade dinner — you know — for one of the other hectic 364 days of the year. You’ll be glad you did!

I hope you are all having the most fabulous Monday!

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

This soup recipe is one of my absolute favorites. There aren’t many soups that get a repeat appearance in my house through ‘soup season’ because there are too many good soups and not enough time, but this one will have it’s day in the cool weather at least twice…maybe three times!

Having pre-cooked chicken and wild rice in the freezer helps this one come together in pretty short order – but it’s not a pre-requisite, so if you don’t have these prepped and in waiting just be sure to tack on a little extra time on the front end to boil the chicken and the rice. These don’t come into play until near the end of the recipe so there is prep and initial stages of cooking happening during which the chicken and rice can be prepared as well.


2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions
1T butter
1T olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup celery, chopped small
1/2-3/4 cup carrot, shredded
1 green pepper, chopped (note: in the picture you will notice I used red bell pepper for this batch because I had them out of the garden to be used up. It was good but not as much so as the green — stick with green if you can)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 T whole wheat flour
Salt & Pepper to taste
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 cup cream
1/3 cup sliced slmonds, toasted
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Saute veggies in butter/oil
Add flour, salt & pepper – stir to combine and cook for approx 1 minute
Whisk in stock and water
Bring up heat to a boil, add chicken and rice to the pot
Cover, drop heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve (skip this step if you are serving immediately)
Just prior to serving, stir in cream, parsley and almonds
Taste and adjust seasonings (salt and pepper) as needed – I always add more of this, in small increments until it tasts just perfect but everyone’s palate is different so there’s no specific instruction on what the exact measurements would be.

Tip: this recipe can be made in advance, up until addition of the cream, etc., and frozen. If you are someone who likes to do freezer prep cooking – add this one to your list! On the day of serving, simply thaw and warm over the stove. Add in the last ‘just prior to serving” ingredients and you will be all set to go!

There is something about the addition of the toasted almonds that just send this one over the top. It’s ridiculously good. I don’t even mind eating the leftovers every day for an entire week afterwards — sometimes even for breakfast.

Happy Souping!

Soup Season!

It’s soup season and time to stock up! Pun intended.

Last week I intentionally roasted a whole chicken so that I could later make a large pot of chicken stock to tuck away in the freezer.

Making your own chicken stock is simple and well worth the effort — not only do you control everything that goes into it, it tastes better and is a great way to use leftover veggies as well as really utilizing every bit of that roasted chicken.

I like to keep a bag in the freezer and when I prep onions, celery, carrots, etc. I toss in the elements that would otherwise go in the compost. Then when it’s time to make stock all those leftovers find their way into my large stock pot.

You don’t have to have a frozen stash of veggies for this project, just follow the simple recipe below…

1 chicken carcass
2 whole onions
5 celery stalks
5 carrots
5 cloves of garlic
4 whole peppercorns
Handful fresh parsley
Small handful fresh thyme (or 1 heaping tsp of the dry stuff)
2 bay leaves

Throw all ingredients into a large stock pot (no need to chop into smaller bits and pieces, you can essentially throw them all in whole – except for the onions – cut those babies in half)
Fill up stock pot with as much water as it will hold
Place on stove and bring to a boil
Drop the heat to low, throw a lid on it and let it ride…all. day. long.


After a full day of simmering, turn off the heat and allow the pot to cool slightly. Then, with a slotted spoon, fish out what you are able of the chicken carcass, veggies and herbs. If you’d like, add salt. I don’t add any salt, I wait and add when I’m cooking so I can really control how much sodium finds its way into my meals – but that’s totally up to you

Pop the whole pot into the fridge and allow to cool (I leave this over night). When you return to the pot the next day, the fat will be floating on the top.


Scoop this out. Then, pour the contents through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup.

How you choose to divvy up your yield is up to you. For this batch, I chose to freeze 4 containers of 5 cup portions (a typical size for the soups I make):


And what was left over I poured into ice trays and froze:


These little cubes of stock allow for me to thaw out smaller portions, as needed, for other recipes. For my particluar ice cube trays 14 cubes = about 1 cup.

There you have it! Couldn’t be simpler and your house will smell wonderful all day while your stock simmers.

Get ‘stocked’ up and I’ll be sharing some soup recipes with you in the coming weeks.

Three Years Ago…

Three years ago today, I left my life in Nebraska to start something new in Colorado. I packed up my SUV with my essentials and drove away from Therapy House. The house that I poured blood, sweat and tears into, quite literally.  The house that offered me a first night of full rest, after many restless nights over the course of many months, the very first night I tucked in to bed there. The house that was all mine – that I took pride in – that was a testiment of how ‘ok’ everything was despite all the messiness in life.

I miss that little house (with the gigantic garage)…

And the unique warmth that comes only from a wood burning stove…

Dining Area After

And relaxing in the gigantic whirlpool bathtub…

And sitting on the deck with a glass bottle(s) of wine, laughing with friends…

And…well…I could go on, and on, and on…

I look back on that chapter of my life with so much fondness – and then on where I am currently with so much appreciation – and finally ahead with hopeful anticipation of what’s to come.

What a journey it has been. The blessings = countless!

Happy Anniversary to “The New Life” I began in Colorado, 3 years ago today!


Fall Planting

Each spring, as I’m cleaning out the garden and flower beds and preparing for all the new planting I vow, “this year, no excuses, I’m going to get Fall planting done”. Fall comes and goes — without any planting. I’m generally burned out and tired by the time Fall rolls around and haven’t the brain power to plan, let alone purchase and then plant bulbs for Spring flowering. And then, Spring returns and I’m disappointed that I let the opportunity for Fall planting pass me by.

This year I got way ahead of the game. I planned – and ordered – bulbs for Fall planting in August! I figured it would trick  force me into finally addressing this outstanding chore. There wouldn’t be any way I would spend the money, have the bulbs here ready for planting, and let the opportunity slip by. And, I was right!

Turns out I got a little crazy with the ordering. When the package showed up and I opened it to assess what I was really dealing with, 124 bulbs came spilling out into my life. Oh gosh! 124 bulbs really isn’t a lot when you consider the size and number of landscaped areas in my yard – but – oh gosh!

And then, when I went to pick up some mums to plant as well (because if you’re going to do Fall planting, DO Fall planting, right?) I had a momentary lapse in judgment and bought another package of tulips…because they were unique and like nothing else I had ordered…and because, well, I momentarily lost my mind!

Fall planting in Colorado can be tricky because the weather is super tricky. Temps are all over the place and it’s anyone’s guess what sort of precipitation will fall from the sky. In the past couple weeks we’ve had two torrential downpours, complete with thunder, lightening and hail! That’s right, in October. It is for this same reason that deciding what to wear in the morning is a total guessing game – and inevitably, you end up uncomfortable (either too warm or too cold) the majority of the day…but, I digress…

So, playing the weather and juggling work and other household responsibilities, completing this project played out over the course of several days. I am happy to report that it’s FINALLY done. I can’t wait until Spring 2016 rolls around and I can share with you all the splendor that only Spring can bring — with 130+ early season blooms — compliments of all this hard work in the Fall.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the pops of color in the Fall that mums are so famous for:


Wishing you all an incredible week – do whatever you can to make it great!

Preserving the Harvest

Isn’t Fall such a busy time of year? Fall 2015 has felt especially busy around here. In addition to the usual Fall chores, we had a couple other projects on our ‘to do’ lists (or maybe these things were just on mine – thank goodness J is a good sport and goes with the flow).

The pine trees came down (finally) – you can read more about that here, if you missed it!

I had another bear of a project that’s nearly finished up and I’ll blog about another time.

And then a permanent part of my Fall ‘to do’ list includes the ongoing dilemma of what to do with all these tomatoes:

Having all these tomatoes is purposeful – I like to can. Actually, I don’t know if it’s the activity of canning that I love so much (though, admittedly there is a special place in my heart for the activity as I learned from my grandmother) but I really do LOVE having home-grown goodies through the Winter and following Spring.

The large batch of tomatoes pictured today were destined to become tomato juice – and that’s exactly what became of them:

A couple of years ago I did a blog post with step-by-step instructions on how I go about making tomato juice. You can read about that by clicking this link. One thing to make mention of, that wasn’t mentioned in the post on actually making the tomato juice, is that processing times vary depending on altitude. Now that I’m living at a much higher altitude, processing time is longer. Be sure to check the recommendations for your neck of the woods – there are lots of online resources and books on the topic.

Making tomato juice isn’t difficult, but it’s time consuming…and the mess involved…wowza! That said, it’s totally worth it. And, if you think you don’t like tomato juice, I’d encourage you to try again. I thought the same until I tried something home-grown, then home-made. I learned quickly that V8 has got nothin’ on the stuff that comes out of my garden/kitchen!

Do you have copious amounts of garden fresh tomatoes? What are your favorite ways to Preserve The Harvest?

The weekend is in sight! Happy Thursday!

Cheese Wontons

One of my favorite things about going out for Chinese food is the cheese wontons – or crab rangoon, depending on the restaurant. If it wouldn’t be completely ridiculous, I’d make a meal of cheese wontons. We all know that would be completely ridiculous, though, so I don’t.

What I do, however, is make Chinese dishes on a semi-regular basis at home so it only made sense that I set out to re-create a restaurant favorite to serve alongside our home cooked Chinese dishes. What I’ve come up with is pretty spectacular!

They aren’t fried, so they aren’t exactly the same as the restaurant but these are special in their own amazing way. Same as at the restaurant, I’d like to make a meal of ’em….if it wouldn’t be completely ridiculous…which it would be….so I don’t.

Wonton Wrappers
Cream Cheese: half – 1/3 a block (room temperature)
Minced Onion: 1 Tbsp
Worchestershire Sauce: 1 Tbsp
Garlic Powder: couple dashes
Accent Seasoning: couple dashes (this isn’t completely necessary, so if you’re avoiding MSG, skip it. If you can tolerate a little MSG  in your diet- definitely include – it will knock your socks off!).

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
Re-constitute the minced onion in a few drops of water (an easy way to accomplish this is to put the onion on a large spoon, dribble just a touch of water on to the spoon/onions from faucet and let sit):
Combine cream cheese, minced onion, worchestershire sauce, garlic powder, and Accent seasoning
Spread wonton wrappers on a parchment paper lined baking sheet
Place a small amount of cream cheese mixture in middle of each wrapper:
Wet edges with a small amount of water (I just used my finger, no need to create extra dishes by using a brush), fold into a triangle and press edges together.
Lightly spray the tops of each cheese-fill wonton with olive oil
Bake for 15’ish minutes, until the wrappers are crunchy and light golden brown:

You could play with this recipe and make it all your own. Don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. Addition of some crab, and/or fresh green onion would be fabulous as well.

Also worth noting — these can be made ahead of time, stored in the fridge and cooked when you are ready to eat them. OR they also freeze well — so make a whole heck of a lot and tuck them away in the freezer for another time.

Easy. Delicious. Healthier than the restaurant version. Serve alongside your favorite Chinese dish or as an appetizer…or, if you really feel so inclined, make a meal of ’em, I won’t judge :)


PS – there’s a giveaway going on at the blog right now and literally no one has signed up to win. I find it hard to believe that there aren’t 10 people out there who don’t want a iTunes gift card! Here’s the link for the post, in case you simply missed it in the hustle of your typical day.

Shannon Quintana

Shannon Quintana is a contemporary Christian musician, and she is my new, most favorite, artist. I had the pleasure of experiencing her music for the first time, live, as she led worship at a women’s retreat I attended several weeks ago. She is incredible. And adorable. And her music…it’s real and gorgeous and…I could go on and on…

I returned home from this retreat craving more and immediately downloaded her album “We Come”. You can sample this, as well as her other album “Start Where You Are”, on her website And while you’re there, check our her blog.

Oh, and to show you how adorable she is, I hijacked these photos from her website:
Shannon Quintana

In an effort to share the love, SimplyEclecticLife is hosting a giveaway…an iTunes giftcard so you can  download your very own copy of one of her albums!

To enter you must….
1. like this post – on the blog
2. follow the blog – if you aren’t already following, it’s simple, just enter your email address in the box on the top, right of your screen, and click “follow”
3. post a comment – maybe visit Shannon’s website, sample her music, then tell me all about how much you wanna win becuase you just can’t get enough!

Here’s the deal – there must be a minimum of 10 people entered in the drawing, otherwise we’ll postpone for another time – so spread the news. Entry deadline is next Saturday evening, and I will draw for the winner on Sunday, October 18th, 2015.

I hope you are having a most fabulous Sunday and that your week ahead is nothin’ but wonderful-


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