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Dinner for One: Vegetarian Style

One more time into the kitchen my friends! And this time, we are going hard core vegetable, with lentils. (ok…all of you heading for the doors, just give us a moment to go over this, please)

Something I learned recently is that for those of us who have been discouraged from making dried beans because of the ‘sort/rinse/rinse/rinse again and again and again and then cover with water overnight and boil up and drain and replace the water’ stuff, lentils are the one exception to that rule.

How to make lentils:
Open package and measure out what you want.
Put into a pot with water or some sort of broth to cover.
Bring to a boil and boil for about 15-30 minutes (big window I realize but it all depends on how ‘al dente’ you like your lentils. If you let them boil a long time, they turn basically into lentil mush, which is great for lentil soup or lentil stew but not for other things that you want to deal with. Also, lentils come in various colors – red, orange, green and brown. The red and orange ones you can usually find in Indian groceries or in the ethnic foods section of your grocery store.

Now, for our last foray into ‘dinner for one(or two)”, I thought I’d put us all into the position where again, we have something to eat tonight, plus things to work with this coming week. So, this morning, I took a bit of time to rinse a cup of lentils, throw them into a pan with a can of low salt beef broth (veggie and chicken broth works too – even water will work), brought the whole mess to a boil, covered it and let them cook for 20 minutes. Then I took them off the light and let them sit while frankly the DH, our son and I went apple picking.

When I got home, that cup of lentils was now 3 cups of cooked lentils which I put into a container and put into the fridge.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I really need something good and nutritious at lunch at work or by 3 p.m., I’m ready to start eating the carpeting or anything that is laying around at the office (which is usually something that given my druthers, I’d rather not eat..). I also want a salad at lunch because then I can make sure I get my veggies too, but I hate paying $7 for a salad. It just galls me no end. But making salads in the morning before I go to work is sort of a pain, so here is my Rx for me (and for you) which will get the fridge stocked with stuff that will enable me to throw together a good salad literally when I’m going out the door. Additionally, with these particular items in the fridge, you can throw together dinner as soon as you get home without a second (or even a third) thought.

So, to get ready for the week, you will need:
1-2 big onions
1-2 big sweet peppers
The aforementioned 1 cup of lentils, already cooked
A cucumber
A head of broccoli that’s about 6 inches across (if you want to go with a bag of frozen broccoli, that will work also).
A small box of whatever sort of pasta you like. It doesn’t matter if it is low-or no-gluten, what shape it is or whatever.

You’ll also need a big frying pan and a sauce pan, and some olive oil and 3-4 plastic containers with lids.

Step one:
Slice up the onions. Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into the frying pan and put on low. Put the onions into it and start cooking them, stirring and tossing.

Step two: While the onions are cooking, rinse the head of broccoli, trim off the bottom and chop it up. Put into a saucepan with about an inch of water and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes and then drain and put into a container and put into the fridge.

Step three: While the onions and broccoli are cooking, wash, core and slice up the sweet peppers, and peel and slice up the cucumber. Put the sliced up sweet peppers into a container and put the cucumbers into a container. Put those in to the fridge. By this time, the onions will be finished as well. Take the pan off the light, allow to cool and put the cooked onions into a container and put into the fridge.

Step four: Make up half the box of pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain, cool and put the pasta in a container in the fridge. As an added precaution against it all sticking together in the container, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.

OK, so let’s review: In the fridge now, you have the following in containers:
Cooked lentils
Sliced up cucumbers
Sliced up sweet peppers
Cooked, chopped up broccoli
Cooked sliced onions
Cooked pasta

So, here are a couple of ways to combine these (and sometimes add a bit of other ingredients too) to make other meals this week. I’d advise the you use up the sliced up cucumbers and peppers asap.

Dish Number One: Lentil Salad
Combine in your lunch container the following:
½ cup of cooked lentils
Some sliced up cucumbers, sliced up sweet peppers, some of the cooked broccoli, some of the cooked onions and a ½ cup of the cooked pasta. Add whatever is your favorite salad dressing, put on the lid, shake it up, and you are ready to go. Grab an apple and lunch is ready (and by the way, you don’t need to refrigerate this..).

Dish Number Two: Lentil Soup
You will need a can of some sort of broth – chicken, beef, or vegetarian will do.
Other ingredients: a carrot, diced finely.
Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a sauce pan and on low heat, cook up the carrot.
Add cooked onions, the lentils, and the can of broth and heat until boiling.
Add some of the cooked pasta and heat through.

Dish Number Three: Veggie Taco
You will need a couple of tortillas for this and some grated cheddar cheese.
Take out of the fridge:
Cooked lentils
Cooked onions
Sliced cucumbers and sweet peppers

Combine these items on a tortilla, and add some grated cheddar cheese.

As you can see, if you have some prepared items in the fridge, then you can combine them in different ways to make nutritious and fast meals.

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  1. Donna Will says:

    Wonderful ideas here! Practical and yummy, too. Thank you so much Aunt Toby!

  2. Shiphrah says:

    Thank you, darling Toby! Two & a half extra hints:

    Putting a paper towel in the bottom of the container with the cukes and peppers (salad greens, too) helps them last a bit longer, as it soaks up the excess moisture that causes them to go soggy & otherwise icky (technical cooking term, that). Oh, and julienning the broccoli stems, instead of just slicing them into coins, is more attractive, and makes them easy to use in a stir fry later in the week.

    Cooking dry beans is waaaay less hassle if you use the quick soak method. Sort and rinse, dump them in a pot with a lot more water than you think possible, bring to a boil for a minute or 3, turn off the heat, and go do something else for an hour. When you come back, dump the water if you like – I never bother – add fresh water, and start cooking. Much faster!

  3. Duchesse says:

    Nice array of healthy, low cost meals!Like lentils as a “bed” under grilled meat or fish, too. A simple dinner of a grilled sausage on a bed of dePuy lentils, very “bistro”.

    But any whiff of cumin in the lentils makes me run- too many hippie casseroles in the 60s.

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