I am, by no means, a great cook. (But I do have friends who are amazing chefs.) I was not raised in a busy kitchen by family members slaving over a hot stove, testing old family recipes and sauces for the perfect tomato-to-basil ratio. The reality was that I grew up in an Irish-American household where meals were typically meat and potatoes and some sort of bland, over-salted canned vegetable, boiled until tasteless, and then salt and peppered. Needless to say, this meant that as a child, my experience with vegetables (outside of the presence of carrots and corn) and all sorts of “ethnic” foods (outside of Italian) was that they were all disgusting and I should never venture outside of my meat/potato/pasta routine.
It took me moving 3000 miles from the Philly area to the organic veggie mecca of San Francisco to discover that I actually *DID* like vegetables and ethnic foods, and eventually I was introduced to what decent food was supposed to taste like. (This is not to slight my mother, who has a few decent dishes under her belt.) Add on some inspiring friends who really knew their way around the kitchen, who fed me well and often, and now I am hooked on refining my remedial cooking skills.
Recently, I had a conversation with my older brother about a health scare he had in which he thought he might be having a heart attack (he wasn’t, thankfully) and it got me thinking about the health benefits of cooking at home. Most of us are strapped for time and resources these days, so cooking drops lower on the priority list, if it is even a priority at all. Over time, I hope to occasionally post up quick, easy-to-make dishes to benefit my brother and anyone else who wants to check them out. Again, they aren’t gourmet, but they are standards in my household that work for me.
Lentil Stew with Veggies
Freezing cold January in Chicago means I crave hearty stews, which can often be fatty and calorie filled. A few winters ago, I came across an alternative to the primarily fatty meat stews (Moderation, y’all!). Lentils-they are filling and hearty and delicious. You can buy some pre- cooked lentils at Trader Joe’s and cut out the lentil cooking time to make this dish even quicker to make than it already is.
- 2 packages of Trader Joe’s pre-cooked lentils
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 red onion, chopped (or 2 bulbs of shallots, chopped)
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup chicken broth or chicken stock
- 1 T olive oil
- 4-5 strips of cooked bacon, diced (I use leaner turkey bacon)
Pre-cook bacon and dice it when finished cooking.
Heat up the olive oil in a medium to large sauce pan on medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and coat with the olive oil. Sautee the carrots and celery for roughly 5 minutes and then add the onion. Sautee onion for about 2 minutes. Add garlic last and sautee for about 1 minute.
Add the cooked lentils and stir through with the vegetables for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir in the wine and chicken stock and turn heat to medium/low. Let lentils and vegetables simmer for about 20 minutes. Add diced bacon (everything tastes better with bacon) and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
This can be eaten as is (I like to dash a tiny bit of brown rice vinegar on top), or mixed with some brown rice or quinoa. I’m sure a dollop of sour cream might be a nice addition. The dish stores easily and is great in tupperware as a grab-and-go lunch for the workday. Enjoy!