Quick and Easy

Yesterday I had a guest coming over for lunch, but I was behind with work so I didn’t have the time to put together a six-course, gourmet, to-die-for menu (which would have been silly for a weekday lunch anyway, but old habits die hard). I also live on Treasure Island and there are no grocery stores out here! I threw together two dishes without a recipe, using what I had in the kitchen. They came out very nice and they are both good examples of recipes you can make without a lot of planning ahead.

The base ingredients—red lentils for the soup and pears for the dessert—are the important things. The rest is all flexible, depending on what’s in your kitchen and what your taste buds prefer. The nice thing is that you really can’t mess up red lentil soup or braised pears!

Add a salad and/or a some fresh whole-grain bread and you’ll be good to go.

Curried Red Lentil Soup
2 cups red lentils
8 cups water

**That’s the base. Everything below this line can be changed around!

1 2” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tb mild curry powder
1 large sweet potato or yam, peeled and diced
½ head cauliflower, chopped
½ head broccoli, chopped
¼ cup miso
Tamari, soy sauce, Bragg’s or salt if you want it

  • Bring the water, ginger, garlic and sweet potato to a boil.
  • Right away, turn down to a simmer and add the lentils.
  • Simmer about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the sweet potato and lentils are tender. The lentils will start to fall apart and create a nice, creamy consistency.
  • Add curry powder, cauliflower and broccoli. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on how soft you like your veggies.
  • Add the miso, stir well, taste and adjust seasoning. Voila!

Red lentils are a great food to make soup with. They’re super healthy, like all lentils, but they cook faster and have a sweeter flavor. Their instant creaminess makes for a very rich-tasting soup, but this is actually a McDougall recipe. You can eat 4 bowls of it and not gain weight!


  1. Delete the curry powder and add basil, thyme, oregano and parsley.
  2. Increase the curry powder and add chili powder to make a spicy soup
  3. Use carrots or butternut squash instead of the sweet potato
  4. Add different veggies—chard, peas, zucchini, green beans, etc.
  5. Throw in a can of coconut milk if you want it really rich and you’re not worried about the fat content.
  6. You get the idea.

Braised Pears

4 pears, not too ripe. You can use D’anjou, Bartlett, Butter pears, Comice, etc. Cut in half and cores removed. If they’re Bosc (the brown ones), I peel them. The others do not need to be peeled.
½ bottle white wine. A Riesling or Gewürztraminer is best. I used the Badger Mountain Riesling—organic, vegan, sulfite-free, and cheap!

1 Tb cinnamon
6 whole cloves
2 Tb maple syrup
2 Tb dry sweetener: sugar, sucanat, date sugar, etc.
1 cup water.

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place the pears cut-side down in a glass casserole or pie dish.
  • Mix the other ingredients in a separate container, then pour over pears.
  • Bake for at least 20 minutes, possibly up to 40 (depending on the ripeness of the fruit).
  • After 15 minutes, take out and turn all the fruit over. Bake until they’re soft and golden brown and all the liquid has cooked down into a rich glaze.
  • Serve warm with vegan ice cream or chill and eat for breakfast.

Best thing about this recipe: You can ignore it while it’s the oven, they taste like you put a lot more effort into it than you really did, and your house will smell amazing while it’s baking! I love to fool my guests like that.

Sometimes I really cheat and simply simmer a pot of water on the stove, with a cinnamon stick, orange peels, and cloves in it. My guests assume it’s some fancy Chef recipe and they also assume my house is always sweet-smelling and welcoming…I can see no reason to destroy those illusions.


  1. Use a mixture of pears and apples, or use all apples.
  2. Use red wine instead of white for a stronger flavor.
  3. Drizzle with melted chocolate when you serve them.
  4. Add 1 Tb fresh chopped ginger to the braising liquid.
  5. Add currants to the braising liquid, and/or chopped walnuts when you serve them.
  6. Use apple cider instead of wine.
  7. Add a little cardamom and coriander to the braising liquid.