Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew, Herb Milk Bread, and General Tso’s Chicken

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This week is the start of a new format. Since you readers seem to like vegetarian recipes best, I’ll give you more of what you want. Each week will feature at least one meatless recipe.

Now, I know this may cause alarm in some of my family, but don’t panic. I’m still very much a meat eater. I just don’t need meat all the time.

I look at this as an adventure of sorts. Since I don’t have a very wide exposure to vegetables, I’m kind of excited to see what the vegetable kingdom can offer, and all the ways to enjoy it. I also want to emphasize that the dishes will be meatless. To be honest, it kind of annoys me when vegetarians make a dish and try to replace the meat with plant matter, such as “spaghetti and wheat balls.”

The meals I plan to make simply don’t have meat in them; though subject to change, I have a belief that a good vegetarian dish won’t make you miss meat by trying to replace it.

I must admit, it’s been a while since I’ve made a meatless dish, and in a way I kind of took the easy way out. I made a stew. This one I saw on The Chew and knew I had to make it, since I’m a sucker for soups. It’s full of veggies and seasonings, hearty and makes enough for a crowd – I don’t recall making a soup that nearly filled my kettle. Best of all, a 2 Cup serving is still under 200 calories. There’s a lot of slicing and dicing to do, but it’s great for a cold day. If I were to do it again, I would probably switch the measurements of the lentils and the sweet potatoes; it seems like the lentils tend to overwhelm it, in my experience sweet potatoes aren’t small enough for the amount required.

It looks much more vibrant before adding turmeric.
It looks much more vibrant before adding turmeric.

Daphne Oz’s Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 finely chopped red onion
  • 7 carrots cut into thinly sliced rounds
  • 2 stalks of diced celery
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 C red lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 tsp. Ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. Ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. Chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. Tumeric
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 Cup sweet potato, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch black kale, finely shredded.

In your soup pot, heat the oil, add red onion. Stir until soft, about 4 minutes. Add carrots, celery, garlic, letting cook another few minutes. Stir in lentils, cumin, coriander, chili flakes, tumeric and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low heat and let simmer 10 minutes. Fold in sweet potato and kale, and cook on medium heat another 15 minutes, or until lentils are cooked through but not mushy.

What goes better with soup than fresh bread? While browsing The Joy of Cooking, I found a new recipe to try, and right now, it’s my new go-to bread recipe. It comes out deliciously soft, even the next day (so I recommend getting your butter to room temperature before trying to spread.) For a less-savory bread, feel free to leave out the herbs, though I urge you to try them the first time you make this.

Better served warm.
Better served warm.

Herb Milk Bread (from The Joy of Cooking)

  •  3 Tbsp. Warm Water
  •  1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 5 Tbsp. Melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 4 C all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tsp. Celery seeds
  • 1 tsp. Caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. Dill
  • 1/2 tsp. Basil
  • 1/4 tsp. Thyme
  • 1 tsp. Dried Parsley (or 1 Tbsp. Fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp. Dried oregano

In a large bowl, combine warm water and yeast and let stand to dissolve, about 5 minutes.

Add milk, butter, sugar, egg, salt, celery seeds, caraway seeds, dill, basil, thyme, parsley, oregano, and two cups of your flour. Mix for a minute to distrubute everything evenly, then slowly add 1 1/2 to 2 Cups flour until dough is moist but not sticky. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth and let rise about an hour, until doubled in bulk.

After an hour, form the dough into a loaf and place seam-side down in a greased 9×5 loaf pan. Brush the surface with oil and cover with plastic wrap (or reuse the previous plastic wrap, it will have a coating of oil) and let rise 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Before baking, brush with melted butter or milk. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove loaf from the pant and move to a rack to let cool completely.

This last gem my husband found on It was my Valentine’s gift from my husband, but we really ended up cooking it together. It also happens to be my favorite Chinese dish. We didn’t deep fry the chicken, so I’m adjusting the instructions to how we did it. I am warning you, this is spicy! 12 dried chiles plus crushed red pepper flakes should be a warning – but note: the chiles are not for eating!

I don't know who General Tso was, but if I were him, I'd take this as an amazing tribute.
I don’t know who General Tso was, but if I were him, I’d take this as an amazing tribute.

General-Tso’s Chicken

  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine, or dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 12 dry red chile peppers
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped lightly toasted cashews
  • Green onions, sliced on the bias, garnish
  • Hot steamed white rice, accompaniment

In a bowl, whisk together the egg white, 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of the wine, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

To make the sauce, in another bowl, whisk remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of the chicken stock until smooth. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons chicken stock, 1 tablespoon wine, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, the vinegar, and sugar and whisk to combine. Set aside until ready to finish the dish.

In a large wok or pot, heat about 4 tablespoons of oil to 350 degrees F

Remove the chicken from the marinade and carefully slide into the hot oil. Fry, turning, until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Discard all but about 1 tablespoon of the oil from the wok. (Alternatively, in a clean wok or saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.) Add the chile peppers and stir-fry until nearly black. Add the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and 1/2 cup green onions.

Stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the chicken stock sauce, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Arrange the chicken on a platter and pour the sauce over it. Garnish with the cashews and additional green onions. Serve with hot rice.

Tip of the week: To lessen the heat of a chile, and get more of the flavor, remove the seeds. I prefer to cut the chile and half, then scoop out, followed by rinsing to make sure I got them all.