Spicy Lentil Portobella Stew

Happy week after Thanksgiving! If you’re like our family and indulged perhaps a bit too much this past week, you may be looking for something to fill you up without weighing you down. This week for Meatless Monday, I’ve created a new recipe- vegetarian and gluten-free- that will help you with your “Turkey Day Detox” efforts… and, it’s a great way to use up leftover carrots and sweet potatoes! The lentils added some bulk, and the potatoes and ‘shrooms provided some “meatiness.” I also threw in a few more spices, including some thyme and bay leaf, which really gave the stew an extra kick. (Side note: I’ve heard that spicy foods cause people to eat less during a meal? Are we going to start seeing cayenne-glazed turkeys next year?)

Serve with with some plain yogurt on top (predictable, I know) and some crackers or blue corn tortilla chips for dipping! You’ll be set to start training for next year’s Turkey Trot in no time!

…Too bad the Christmas treats are just around the corner. Except not really too bad. Heaven.

Spicy Lentil Portobella Stew
Spicy Lentil Portobella Stew


Spicy Lentil Portobella Stew
Recipe Type: Stew
Cuisine: Greek, Southern Mediterranean, Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-12
A hearty post-Turkey Day stew that will fill you up without weighing you down! Also a great way to use up leftover Thanksgiving veggies.
  • 1 1/2 cup lentils
  • 5 cups water or vegetable broth (low sodium)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes and juice
  • 1 package baby bella mushrooms
  • 1/2 package onions and peppers (I used a TJ’s medley of green, red, & yellow peppers and onions!)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 4-5 carrots, sliced into buttons
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Spinach or kale, optional
  • Greek yogurt for serving
  • Crackers or tortilla chips
  1. Combine all ingredients up to balsamic vinegar in crock pot. I like to put the potatoes and carrots on the bottom since they take the longest to cook! Set to low and simmer all day (I let mine go about 8 hours and then turned it down to warm). About half an hour before serving, add the vinegar, pepper, salt, and greens (if desired).
  2. Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and some crackers on the side.
Serving size: 1/10 Calories: 163 cals Fat: 1 g Carbohydrates: 32 g Fiber: 8 g Protein: 10 g


Crock O’ Brunswick Stew

The past few days have finally been feeling like fall here in NC, and you know what that means? Soup season! Anyone who knows me knows I go craaaaaazy for a nice hearty stew. I could probably eat stew just about every night. Even in the summer. Although this summer I totally dropped the ball on making gazpacho. Ah well. October is here now, and I’m all about a meal that you can dump into one big pot and let it cook all day so that it’s ready when you come home from your busy day at work, school, or whatever else you folks do with all your time.

I saw Brunswick Stew listed on the menu at a new BBQ joint in downtown Durham a few months ago and was instantly curious. It sounded like all ingredients I would love, besides the meat part! When I looked up more about how to make it, the huge variety of recipes left me thinking that it’s probably not exactly a science to making Brunswick Stew. The only thing I found was that it typically has a tomato base and some sort of butter beans or lima beans, and meat. Other than that, free for all! I decided to go with turkey sausage and added some sweet potatoes, tomatoes, black beans frozen corn and okra (gotta stay southern somehow, right?) and let it simmer away in a slightly-sweet and absolutely delicious Organic Low Sodium Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup base from TJ’s.

Saddle up and let this crock do it’s thing, ya’ll! Happy sleeping weather! Happy Fall!


Crock O’ Brunswick Stew
Recipe Type: Soup, Stew
Cuisine: Southern, Healthy
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Three cheers for my first stew of the season! I love fall, ya’ll! Try this healthy and hearty Brunswick stew for your next chilly October evening and keep enjoying those leftovers all week long!
  • 1-2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 parsnips, sliced thinly
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 6 links turkey sausage, sliced thinly
  • 1 carton Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup base
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes and juice
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can butter beans, rinsed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 small bag frozen okra
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Crackers, chips, cheese, or Greek yogurt for topping
  1. In a skillet on medium high heat, cook onions, garlic, and parsnips in 1 tbsp olive oil for 4-5 min or until tender. Add to crock pot and set heat to low.
  2. Add sweet potatoes and sausage to same pan and cook until browned, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Scrape up browned bits on bottom of pan and add to crock pot.
  3. Add soup base, tomatoes, beans, and spices to crock pot and stir to combine.
  4. Set to low heat and let ‘er crock away for about 4 hours or until bubbling. About 30 min before serving, add corn, okra, and S+P.
  5. Serve with crackers or chips with a nice dollop of Greek yogurt on top or some melted Swiss cheese. Of course I did both! 🙂
Serving size: 1 1/2 cups soup, not including toppings Calories: 222 cal Fat: 4 g Carbohydrates: 39 g Fiber: 10 g Protein: 11 g


Crock Pot Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

Here’s a fun new one to try! I was in the mood for Indian tonight, and wanted something that I could let stew away in the Crock Pot all afternoon so that I’d be able to smell it while I got ready for the week ahead (truth be told I will probably be smelling curry for about 3 days… our house has abnormally good insulation of heat AND smells, for better or for worse!). I decided to dream up this chicken curry and sweet potato casserole with onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms, spiced with curry, cilantro, and a heap of other Indian spices, and spread in a casserole dish over a medley of lentils, brown rice, and veggies.

It was definitely a hit! I topped it with some feta cheese (I don’t know if that really counts as “Indian,” but what the heck- it was what I had on hand), more cilantro, and a dollop of plain greek yogurt, as well as some chopped dates and a handful of sliced muscadine grapes that I’d gotten fresh from the farmers’ market yesterday morning (muscadines are apparently native to North Carolina, so does that make this an Indian-Carolina fusion meal?)


This casserole is not only healthy, packed with protein, whole grains, and vitamins, but it was also delish! Ben thought it was a hit, too. I love the fact that I didn’t need to think about which grain I was going to use, which veggies I was going to have to cook to serve on the side, etc. Casseroles are so great because they have everything you need for a complete meal in one container! A sure time-saver for weeknight meals to come, since I will certainly be enjoying this healthy, exotic casserole all week long!

Crock Pot Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry
Recipe Type: Casserole, Chicken
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Here’s a super-filling and healthy Indian curry casserole that’s sure to keep you satisfied and promise leftovers to last you all week long! Spiced with red curry paste, cilantro, and a hint of lime, chicken breasts are cooked in the crock-pot with sweet potatoes, mushrooms and onions, then shredded and layered on top of a medley of brown rice, black lentils, and veggies.
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 carton baby bella or mixed variety mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 4 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp whole coriander seed
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1 small can capers
  • 2 cans whole, peeled tomatoes in their juice
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for topping
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 3/4 cup dry black lentils
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • Chopped dates, optional
  1. Place chicken breasts on the bottom of crock pot sprayed with cooking spray and set to high heat.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat and add onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until translucent- about 3 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and continue to cook until tender. Stir in salt, pepper, red curry paste, curry powder, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, and coriander seed and stir continuously for 1 minute. Deglaze pan with 1 cup chicken broth. Turn heat down to low and add capers, tomatoes (chopping them up a bit in the pan!), and orange juice. Top with cilantro and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add potato mixture to top of chicken in crock pot. Cook on high heat for 3-4 hours until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 deg.
  5. In the bottom of a sprayed 9×13 casserole dish, layer rice and lentils. Top with broccoli, cauliflower and peas.
  6. Layer crock pot contents except for chicken, leaving behind some juice in the crock pot.
  7. Pour 1 cup of remaining chicken broth on top of veggies.
  8. With two forks, shred chicken. Add more spices if desired (I ended up adding a bit more cumin, red pepper flakes, curry paste and curry powder). Stir in lime juice. Continue to cook for about 30 more minutes to allow shredded chicken time to really soak up the flavor.
  9. Add chicken to casserole dish and cook, covered, for 50 minutes.
  10. Cool 10 minutes before serving.







Recipe Redux: Kale, White Bean, and Barley Stew with Chicken Sausage

Okay, okay, I know, it’s not a new one, but I couldn’t help it! This is based on a recipe from last December, which is based on one from the December before that. When we have these cooler summer days (wait, is it really late August in Durham?) all I want for dinner is soup! That and the fact that my husband decided to crank up the A/C to like, a gazillion-below-zero in our house. I seriously pondered bringing out the winter clothes.

This time, I had chicken sausage instead of turkey, so I used that instead. Also added pearl barley to bulk it up a bit, which was a good choice because I plan on turning the leftover soup into salad (chilled and poured over some spinach) for lunch tomorrow, and I think the barley will do a nice job of sopping up some of the leftover juice so that I’m not ending up with soup in my lap as I eat it with a fork! But Claire, you HATE salads, you say!


Happy October- I mean, Tuesday!

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Recipe Redux: Kale, White Bean, and Barley Stew with Chicken Sausage
Recipe Type: Soup, Stew, Healthy
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Adding barley to this recipe from last December is a great way to bulk up the protein and fiber factor to this delicious and healthy stew. I also used chicken sausage this time instead of turkey, and excluded the mushrooms (although I would’ve thrown them in if I’d had them on hand!). One of my absolute favorite recipes on the blog, and it could NOT be easier!
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 links fully cooked chicken sausage, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 6 whole carrots, sliced into “buttons”
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herb blend
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 cans Great Northern or Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans no-salt added diced tomatoes, in their juice
  • 1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 48 oz carton of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large bunch of fresh kale or spinach, rinsed well and torn into small pieces
  • 1 bunch raw broccoli/cauliflower
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (I love my truffle salt!)
  • Grated parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Crusty whole grain bread
  1. Heat EVOO in a saute pan on medium heat.
  2. Saute onions, garlic, and carrots until soft, about 4 minutes. Add all herbs and sausage and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Make sure to scrape up all the brown bits in the bottom of the pan!
  3. Add onion mixture to a large stockpot.
  4. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, and barley to stockpot and bring to a boil. Add beans and reduce heat to low. Simmer with lid tilted 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Right before serving, stir in kale and remaining veggies until bright green in color (about 2 minutes).
  6. Ladle stew into bowls. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and parmesan cheese.
  7. Serve with a side salad and crusty whole grain bread for dunking!


“Spring Clean Your Fridge” Challenge Day #7: Crock-Pot Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili, and The Last of It!

Day #7, which means it’s the last day! We made it, ya’ll! Phew!

Here’s what our fridge looks like today:


And Pantry…


Compare that with Day 1!


This week I’ve learned a lot about living more minimistically, modestly, and humbly. I’ve been to the store once, to buy more spinach and a couple of bananas, two of the exceptions that I started out saying I would allow myself to buy if we ran out. I didn’t even have to go back for more apples, thanks to a catered career fair lunch, some generous (or green-apple hating) friends, a PT Olympics with excess sun-ripened bananas (“perfect for banana bread!”) and animal crackers, and Summit VHQ granola bars (a few Nature Valley Oats and Honey granola bars may or may not have jumped into my purse on the way out of church today… ‘holy’ granola?)

In a way, I probably obsessed about it a bit too much (recall The Great Tomato Shortage of 2014 incident) but in my defense, I really wanted to get the full experience of what it would be like to raid the ‘pantry of my mind’ for ways to mix and match ingredients and perfectly good leftovers.

I was surprised by how little we were able to live on, and how creative I was still able to be with my cooking/baking. In the course of a week, I feel like I was able to reset my idea of what it means to have a “full kitchen” and really make things stretch. I made a bunch of pretty decent mash-up meals, including pita pizzas, mini pork and potato shepherd pie-like “quiches,” a chicken, apple and maple-dijon pierogie lasagna (still deciding how to describe that one), corn chowder made from leftover Indian power salad, and tonight’s crock pot chili (see below). I feel pretty good about myself, and a bit relieved that I was able to make it a whole week without setting foot in Kroger (and only once in HT!). Reflecting on it tonight with Ben, I think that this could definitely be a regular thing to add to the end or beginning of each month- a “challenge” in a sense to see how far we can make things go, but also to remind us that we have a LOT of food sitting around, much of which goes to waste or pushed to the back of the refrigerator and thrown out three weeks later.

I don’t know how much money we saved this week, as I allowed myself to still buy beverages and coffees with friends (we also went out to frozen yogurt one night and out to dinner with my grandparents another evening), but I’d imagine overall we probably saved close to $150. Not bad! We could definitely benefit (emotionally and financially) by incorporating this little ritual into our month-to-month routine.

And so, my dear friends, tonight I bring you the last mash-up meal, created entirely from things already on hand. Crock Pot Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili! This is a similar recipe to the one I made last fall, that all of you kept telling me you were planning on making, except that I had to make a few changes because we didn’t have everything I used in it last time. We only had one onion and one sweet potato left this time around, only 1 can of tomatoes and black beans, no cheese for topping, and no chicken sausage. Instead, I used regular frozen chicken breasts, on which I rubbed some mole seasoning before letting them thaw in the refrigerator for the morning; a little less cocoa powder; a little more cinnamon; about 1 tsp each of chili powder, garlic powder, minced garlic, and cumin; a pinch of nutmeg and cayenne pepper, and some hot pepper flakes. Yes, I am aware that I can at times go spice-crazy. I also added the last of the carrots we had, and the end of the frozen peppers and onions blend. Finally, since we were a bit short on tomatoes, I dumped in the remainder (about a half-jar) of salsa for some extra juice. The real key here is that I kept the Latin Style Black Bean Soup base from Trader Joe’s, which really does “make” this stew, whether or not some of the other ingredients are there too.

To the top I dolloped (verbage?) a spoonful of regular plain yogurt (Trader Joe’s Australian Style), which is not greek like last time, but equally tasty as its tartness blends perfectly into the smooth black bean soup base. Served with leftover blue corn tortilla chips, this chili was just as good as the first time, except probably better because this time it was FREE!


The goods, minus a few.


Set to low for the chicken (about 4 hours), followed by high for the rest (4-6 hours or until potatoes are tender)


Tomorrow is Monday. And you know what that means? Time to make a BIG trip to the grocery store! I’ve never in my life been more excited about buying milk and yogurt. I had to start my list last Wednesday… and I’m sure it will be twice as long before noon tomorrow. It’ll sure be nice to wipe out those glass refrigerator shelves, spray them with some Windex, and refill them with all the usual staples!

Thanks for helping me learn so much about life, myself, and food this week! I got to push myself a good bit, and I couldn’t have done it without all of your support! I hope you felt inspired and maybe you’ll one day tell me about embarking on your own similar “Spring Clean Your Fridge” challenge!


The Breaking of the Naan: Indian Food Night!

Our small group from Summit has been talking about having an “Indian Food Night” for months. It seems like every single time that we get together, someone mentions some really good Indian restaurant in the Triangle. Seriously, ya’ll, they seem to just spring up overnight around here! Ben and I have yet to try all the restaurants here in Durham that we want to, let alone the ones in Chapel Hill and Raleigh! When my mom comes to visit, she always swears that you could eat out every single night around here at a different restaurant, and be good to go for a year!

Despite all the excellent international cuisine options in the area (among some of my favorites are the Mediterranean Deli in Chapel Hill, Gregoria’s Steakhouse in Durham, and Shiki Sushi in Durham), we decided to take the plunge and create our own Indian food, potluck style!

It was a warm Spring night here, and we all trekked over to Jonathan and Tawny’s to feed our growling bellies with the most incredible chicken tikka masala, Indian-spiced rice, spiced eggplant and veggie stew, mulligatawny stew, and chickpea-lentil salad with curried cauliflower. And let’s not forget the naan, of course! Just as sushi lives and dies by the rice, Indian food lives and dies by the naan!

Oh. my. goodness. Everything was so delicious. I can’t even begin to describe the smells that were tantalizing me even as I climbed the stairs to enter Jonathan and Tawny’s second-story apartment. We devoured a sampling (okay, probably a bit more than just a sampling… we may have gone back for seconds. and thirds…) of every dish on the table, exclaiming over and over again at how wonderful everything was. Despite many of the dishes using the same spices, each one had a unique flavor of its own. The most flavorful, though, was the rice and eggplant stew that Robin brought, which we all agreed was because Blake had brought back the spices freshly from India on his recent school trip to Dubai! Boy, was that a treat!

And so, my friends, I present to you the first of hopefully many International food nights: “The Breaking of the Naan”! Enjoy!

**I hope to get recipes for all, if not some, of these dishes, so hold on tight until then! (The chickpea-lentil salad recipe, which was my contribution, will be posted shortly!)

photo 2 (61)The girls 🙂

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photo 5 (18)


photo 3 (53)photo 4 (35)photo 2 (63)photo 5 (17)

photo 2 (60)Robin’s Indian-spiced rice. I made the mistake of specifically ladling out an entire cardamom seed (did I mention these were fresh spices, straight from India?), thinking it was a raisin. As much as I love spices, this was probably not the best choice. I think my breath still smells like cardamom this morning! Oops. 🙂

photo 1 (68)My personal favorite dish of the night: Jonathan and Tawny’s Chicken Tikka Masala. I will DEFINITELY be getting the recipe for this one. It was even tastier over Robin’s rice!

photo 3 (50)Another dish from Robin- roasted and spiced eggplant and veggie stew. She probably has a much better name for this. Again, with fresh spices straight from India!

photo 4 (33)Maggie and Donovan brought a delicious Mulligatawny Stew (yes, there were many jokes made about Tawny in the process of eating this). It had a really unique sweetness that made it extra tasty to enjoy as a “dessert” course!

photo 5 (16)Last but (hopefully) not least, my chickpea-lentil salad with curried cauliflower and cumin-lemon vinaigrette. I’m glad I decided to make this instead of the dal I originally had planned; we had a plethora of stew-like dishes (all of which were amazing, I must add). Recipe coming soon!

photo 4 (34)My loaded plate- everything above pictured here except for the mulligatawny, which I went back for later because I was out of room!

photo 1 (69)I was so blessed to have this precious time of community with some of my favorite people. Ben, Michael, and Erika, we missed you! Let’s break some naan together soon! (Or maybe some challah? Or injera? Or focaccia?) 😉