Monday, January 11, 2016

Versatile Lentils

Lentils are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They cook without soaking time. They can be used in a variety of ways. To me, they are one of the best items to store and use! Do not add salt or acid foods while cooking lentils, this will make the skin of lentils tough....wait until lentils are cooked tender, then add salt and/or acid foods. Once I got used to the taste of lentils, they soon became a favorite, now I love lentils!!!

Image result for picture of lentils
First type of lentils to store are the easy to find brown or green lentils.....they both cook the same.  Many people have had lentil soup, but I hope to help expand the way you use them. Our favorite recipe for this type is lentil tacos.  

A few recipe ideas using brown or green lentils:

Sprouted lentils, add to salads

Lentils n' eggs
Mexi lentils n' rice
Italian lentil wheat stew
Lentil burgers
Lentil tacos
Sloppy lentil joes
Surprise apple cake
Chocolate lentil cake
Lentil cookies

Lentil Tacos
Well yum! I made this for some friends....her son is very particular about food, he ate 2 of these tacos.

2/3 c. brown or green lentils
1/4 c. dried chopped onions
1 tsp. dried garlic bits
2 c. water

In saucepan, bring this mixture to boiling. Cover, turn heat to medium-low cook about 35 minutes, until lentils are tender (older lentils may need more cooking time).  

Add to cooked lentils:
1 to 2 tsp. chili powder
up to 1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
sea salt and pepper to taste

Stir well to combine.  Cook on medium-low uncovered for about 10 minutes or until liquids are reduced to your preference. Stir often.  

To make tacos: corn or flour tortillas, grated cheese, lentil taco mixture, squeeze of fresh lime, bit of salsa and sour cream (optional), chopped cilantro.  
We have heated the tortillas/cheese in microwave, then topped with other ingredients.  Also have cooked corn tortillas in oil for a minute to soften (or brush with oil on both sides place on baking sheet, heat in 300° oven until softened).  


Mexi Lentils N' Rice
Made with brown rice, see rice post for how to store brown rice.  I have not yet adapted this to dried onions/garlic.... 

This is by far one of my most popular samples when teaching class. Everyone tastes it, most come back for more, I go home with an empty pan!  Now, do remember: TASTES can be changed, so give this a try more than once if needs be!  Also, any increased intake of fiber should be approached slowly....only a few tablespoons per day until your body gets used to the higher amount of fiber.

4 c. water
3/4 c. dry lentils, choose brown or green only for this (they cook the same)
3/4 c. dry long grain brown rice....not quick/etc...just regular
1 small onion, finely diced

2 to 3 tsp. chili powder, according to taste
1/2 to 1 tsp. ground cumin
1 to 2 tsp. garlic salt

In a 2-quart saucepan bring the water to a boil. When boiling, add the lentils, rice, and finely diced onion. When mixture returns to full rolling boil, cover, turn heat to low, simmer for about 40 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic salt. Cover, cook on low for about 10 more minutes. Take off heat, uncover, let sit 5 minutes, stir a couple of times. Serves 4 to 6....or more, depends upon chosen use.

And a 'heads up' just in case: there have been times when I have had to add a bit more water when adding the seasonings to this recipe....if it seemed 'dry'.....

NOTE: I usually make the Mexi-Lentils N' Rice in a double batch so we can have extras for more that one recipe. It freezes really well: just cool, then refrigerate overnight to thoroughly chill, then put in freezer proof baggies or containers, label/freeze up to 3 months.

Tip of the day:

Never add salt or acid foods when cooking will make the skins get 'tough' when cooked. Wait until after lentils are tender to add salt/acid foods.

Ways you might enjoy Mexi-Lentils N' Rice:

1) put hot cooked mexi-lentils n' rice in a shallow bowl, sprinkle the
top of each serving with a little grated cheddar cheese

2) as a taco filling / we like a side of mexi-potatoes with these tacos

3) use in burritos / serve with a side salad, or carrot n' celery sticks

4) very good on tostados.....load with toppings of your choice

5) use in making nachos.....very good!!

6) Yummy Mexi Lentil Taco salad:

heated mexi-lentil/rice mixture
grated cheese
crushed tortilla chips
shredded lettuce
salsa/sour cream/ etc. of your choice

7) Marvelous Enchiladas:

Why do I think this is good? A son that doesn't care for mexi lentils n' rice will eat these heartily!!

enchilada sauce (see following recipe for great savings)
3 T. vegetable oil
12 (six-inch ) corn tortillas
cooked mexi-lentils n' rice (it may not take an entire batch)
2 to 3 cups grated cheddar cheese

Pour 2 cups of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 pan; set aside.
Brush each corn tortilla (on both sides) with a small amount of oil. Heat one at a time in a skillet just until soft/pliable, turning once. Set aside on a plate while heating all 12. Taking one softened corn tortilla at a time, put up to 1/3 cup cooked mexi-lentils n' rice down the middle. Top with at least 3 T. grated cheese; roll up; place in the prepared 9x13 pan. Repeat until all are filled/rolled. Spoon on as much of the remaining enchilada sauce as you prefer. Can then sprinkle all over the top with grated cheese if desired. Cover pan with a piece of tin foil, but do not seal edges, just place foil over top. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 25 minutes; remove foil; cook 5 or so more minutes. Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Janet's Easy Inexpensive Enchilada Sauce:

I use this in all recipes asking for enchilada sauce. This stores in the fridge for about 3 weeks.....

1½ to 2 T. chili powder
¼ to ½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. garlic salt
½ tsp. onion salt
3 to 4 T. unbleached flour

8 oz. can tomato sauce + 3 c. water
2 T. vegetable oil

Mix in a saucepan: first the dry chili powder, cumin, pepper, garlic salt, onion salt, and unbleached flour; mix thoroughly. Add tomato sauce and water; mix with a wire whip until smooth. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally. When hot, stir in the oil. Turn off heat, let sit to meld flavors.

8 ) Mexi Lentil Taco Soup:

Made this for a potluck for a group that I belong to...success...came home with an empty pot and several requests for the recipe. A very good meatless taco soup!

1 to 2 T. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 c. water
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried crushed oregano
1 recipe "Janet's Easy Inexpensive Enchilada Sauce" (see above)
4 to 6 cups cooked Mexi-Lentils N' Rice

In a large pot, on medium high: heat the oil, add chopped onions, cook/brown until onions are tender, stirring as needed. Add the water, garlic salt, oregano, enchilada sauce. Stir in the cooked lentils/rice. Bring to boiling, turn heat to low, cover, let simmer about 15 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Can top each serving with crushed tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream.

9) Garlic mashed potatoes topped with cooked mexi lentils n' rice.....could also top that with grated cheese

Another Recipe Idea: we like to make a 'sort of huevos rancheros' using mexi- lentils n' rice instead of beans.....perhaps that idea will appeal to you/yours.


Sloppy Lentil Joes

2 c. cooked (brown or green) lentils, do not drain 
1/4 c. dried chopped onions
3 T. freeze dried bell peppers, break into small pieces
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce 
1/3 c. water (a little more at a time if needed)
1 tsp. cider vinegar 
1 T. ketchup 
1 or 2 tsp. mustard 
1/2 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. paprika 
1/8 tsp. celery seed 
1 tsp. garlic granules 
1 or 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce 
1/8 tsp. liquid smoke 
salt and pepper to taste

Put cooked lentils into saucepan, add dried onions, dried bell peppers, tomato sauce, water, vinegar, ketchup, mustard, molasses, paprika, celery seed, garlic, worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke.  Cover, cook on medium low 15 minutes; stir occasionally and check if needs water. Remove cover, add salt and pepper to taste, simmer on medium low uncovered for up to 10 minutes, stir often.  Serve on buns, makes 4 or 5.

Or how about trying this one:


Surprise Chocolate Cake
This is an amazing one will ever know you used lentils....

2 c. cooked lentils (green or brown), cooled to lukewarm
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs 
1/4 c. oil 
1/2 c. applesauce 
3/4 c. water
1 and 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. unbleached flour
1/4 c. dry milk powder
4 to 5 T. dry baking cocoa
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously grease and flour an 11x15x1 baking pan. 
In blender until smooth: cooked lentils, vanilla, eggs, oil, applesauce, water; place in a large mixing bowl. 
Mix together: sugar, unbleached flour, dry milk powder, cocoa, baking soda, salt. Add this dry mixture to liquid mixture in large bowl; beat 2 minutes. Pour and scrape into prepared pan. Bake about 20 minutes, or until top bounces back at touch. Remove from oven, cool cake in the pan. Can top with a frosting of your choice if you wish: an easy meringue type frosting is good on this cake and not way sweet.


Red Lentils are my other choice for lentil storage. They break down when cooked.  Sometimes harder to find, priced high in some places, shop wisely. Try Winco if have one in your area, or google buying red lentils in your area, or order here from Rainy Day Foods:

Red Lentil Tomato Soup
Healthy, low fat, filling......I could eat this 3 or 4 times a week!!

Cook covered until tender by bringing to a boil, then turn heat to low/simmer (cook about 30 minutes):

1/2 c. red lentils (these 'break down' as they cook, that is normal)
2 and 1/2 c. water
2 to 3 T. dried chopped onions
1 to 2 tsp. dried garlic bits

After 30 minutes, add:
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes 
(or 1 pint home bottled tomatoes, chopped/pureed)
1 tsp. dried crushed basil
sea salt or salt to taste
pepper to taste

Bring to gentle boil, lower heat to simmer, cover, cook 15 minutes. Optional: add 1 T. cider vinegar  after taking off heat, stir in. Ready to serve.  Delish!!

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