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Make It Work…


Okay with my scratchy throat that I’m about to scratch out I’ve been watching Project Runway marathons on Bravo.  I loved the season with Santino would mimic Tim Gunn (my fashion hero) and his famous statement “Make it work.”  I crack up with every rerun and even when he did it during the reunions.  Oh Andre and Tim going to Red Lobster 🙂

In the spirit of Tim Gunn I needed to make dinner work.  I had planned for this Black Bean and Lentil Chili recipe a few weeks ago when I had the ingredients on hand.  Then life got in the way and we kind of ate some of the ingredients…and some of them I just got lazy and didn’t buy or cheap and didn’t want to buy for one recipe.  But I still wanted chili for dinner and my go to chili is in a crockpot.  Enter Tim Gunn’s Make it work philosophy.

Here is the original recipe (8 servings/ 5 WW points).

  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils (french variety)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 1 large sweet red pepper
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 29 oz canned fire roasted tomatoes with chilies
  • 31 oz canned black beans
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Sure it sounded good but it wasn’t going to work with what I had on hand and my throat was confining me to the house for the evening.  So I routed around in my pantry which is looking as bare as Old Mother Hubbards and came up with these.

Pretty colors.

I had the tomatoes but they weren’t fired roasted.  So I burned them a bit on the bottom of the pan totally on accident that kind of imparted that fire flavor.  And it already had some of the spices in it so it saved me a step.  The black beans I always have on hand thanks to my Cuban friend who insists they are the staple of any diet and fed them to me almost day while I lived with her.  And the lentils I had could have been German or Swedish for all I know but I don’t think they were French.  But they tasted just fine and finally escaped the pantry where they had been hold up for the past few months after I got them on sale at the co-op.

Sweated a big onion and some garlic in the pan first and managed to cry despite using my handy chopper.  What good is a specialty gadget if I still look like I just left the latest Nicholas Sparks movie.

I had some frozen peppers in the freezer to replace the one sweet red pepper and besides they were more colorful.  I use them all the time and saves me the hassle when I don’t have time to chop a full pepper.  They got to hang out in the hot tub with the onions and garlic for a bit until they were nice and sweaty (that is the technical term right?)

Gotta love TJ's.

Then I thew in the tomatoes and lentils and beans after I gave them a quick shower.  And then came some secret ingredients.

I buy these little canned chilies every time they are on sale and throw them in to tons of recipes for a bit of spice.  I’m with Jenna and her love of Siracha and Franks Red-hot.  What recipe couldn’t use a little spicing up.  And these spices are things I ‘ve had around for a while.  I’m sure some chef is going to tell me that spices lose their spiciness after a few months but I can’t stand to throw them away.  My spice cabinet should be on hoarders.  So I just threw a bit of ground coriander, a dash of mixed up salt and a few pinches of the four spices in the mix that are actually for grilling…but I don’t have a real grill unless you count my George.  Gotta love the measuring technique for spices I learned from my grandmother.

I let it all simmer on the stove on medium for a bit (about 5 minutes) to meld the flavors.  Then I noticed it was more soupy than stewy.  So I went back to my pantry and pulled out my favorite stew thickening agent…

I sharpie mark on all my rubs right off.

Yep I threw in some couscous (about 1/4 cup) to absorb some of the liquid and cut the heat.  I let it sit covered until the liquid was absorbed and my delicious design was done.

So messy but so good.

Tim Gunn would have called this a hot mess and Nina Garcia would have probably criticized the mixture of colors and textures.  But it looked good to me and I’d defend it even if I was Auf’d by Heidi.  Dished up a few bowls for Hunni and I and added a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.

I love Grandma's dishtowel for a place mat.

This made 5 servings at 2 points a serving.  But it didn’t last long.  Hunni ate three and I ate two.  It was just that good.  See Tim I made it work 🙂

Do you measure or just estimate ingredients?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenn Eats Nutritiously Now permalink
    24/01/2010 4:43 PM

    What a delicious-looking and healthy meal! Your comment about Nicholas Sparks movies made me laugh 🙂

    • 24/01/2010 4:55 PM

      Thanks. It was delicious. And I do want to see both new Nicholas Sparks movies even if I’ll sob through them.

  2. 24/01/2010 9:13 PM

    You definitely made it work and created a new recipe in the process! I love black beans and we have them often in all different kinds of dishes!

  3. 28/01/2010 7:04 AM

    I loved the improvised dinner. It also looked good to me.

    When it comes to cooking, I estimate the ingredients. It’s convenient because there are less things to wash. But it’s also disadvantageous in a way because I don’t end up with the same taste every time. So much for being OC. O.o

  4. trumanmeg permalink
    30/01/2010 1:05 PM

    I measure. I’m not the greatest cook so I worry if I don’t measure that the things will turn out poorly. I need to have more confidence in my cooking. I’m getting there. I’m trying to cook more.

    • 30/01/2010 10:28 PM

      That’s how Hunni is. He measures everything and freaks if it is off. I’ve just learned to be more lax after making lots of mistakes and things still turned out fine.


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