Cooking With Odds and Ends: Quick Lentils

Part of what I love about being a member of a CSA is that I get more than a week’s worthof produce every week.  I almost always have some left over by the next week, and this has forced me to work a little faster to come up with creative ideas.  It has also led to an increased emphasis on vegetables at every meal.  For about $30 a week I make creative, vegetable-based meals that support our local economy and add nutritional value to our bodies.  We have both recently eliminated our multi-vitamins.

What follows is a true story of my life as a busy athlete and socially-and-environmentally-conscious-psuedo-quasi-wannabe-chef-on-a-budget for a hungry family:

It was 8:02 p.m. and I had just made it back from my third work out of the day.  I was tired and cranky when my phone rang.  It was Mike—he was on his way home from jiu jitsu and wanted to know what was for dinner.

Translation: he wanted to know what he was having for dinner.  I’m in contest prep so all of my meals are already cooked.  He would starve without me. 

This is the point at which most Americans take a quick trip to their favorite fast food joint, but since for us this is not even considered an option, he was prepared to go to the grocery store to buy the ingredients he would need for whatever dinner idea I gave him.  Yep, I forgot to mention that it was the day before my weekly CSA pickup and grocery shopping trip, so we were basically out of everything.

I told him to hang on while I did a quick survey of what we had on hand.  Despite the fact that our cupboards were ridiculously bare, I found inspiration in the few ingredients I had laying around.  It turned out to be what I think is my best recipe yet, though Mike maintains that my pizza dough is #1 and my daughter is more of a cookie lover.

So here’s what I had to work with: about 2 cups of red lentils, 2 carrots, 1 ear of corn, 1 jalepeno (that he swore he’d eat if I bought….), garlic, and a flour tortilla.  Yep, just one tortilla—he loves them but there’s almost always one or two left that end up going to waste and it drives me nuts!  What does anyone do with just 2 carrots and only one ear of corn?  How did we end up with only one ear of corn!?  See—these are the kinds of odds and ends that, if not for some creativity, often go to waste.  This week I was determined not to let that happen!  Instead of having to make a trip to the grocery store for something that, let’s face it, probably wouldn’t have been the most nutritious choice that late in the evening, I managed to whip up a great meal by the time he even made it home from the gym.  Note that our gym is only about ten minutes away and I was exhausted—this was not a complicated or time-consuming effort!  You could make this in the time it would take you to drive to your nearest Chic-Fil-A.

I haven’t decided what to call it yet.  Quite frankly I have many, many versions of what we have begun to affectionately call #$%^ in a bowl, @#$% in a pot, @#$% in a pan, or sometimes just baked @#$%.

This meal is more of a Mexican-themed $#%^ on a tortilla.  Enjoy!

2 Cups red lentils, rinsed
2 carrots, shredded
1 ear of corn, de-cobbed (is that a word?)
1 jalepeno, chopped
1 tbsp garlic (this is one of those items I mentioned in my last post that I prefer to buy pre-packaged…)1 tbsp-ish cumin
1 tbsp-ish chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
3 cups of water

Heat oil in pan; add garlic, corn, jalepeno, and carrot.  Cook vegetables for about 2 minutes; add lentils and spices.  Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until all ingredients are mixed and lentils are lightly coated with oil, about a minute or two.  Add water and bring to a boil; cover and cook on low for about ten minutes.*   Serve on a warm tortilla and top with whatever you want.  He used cheese.  This would be excellent with avocado or diced tomatoes, but I didn’t have either on hand.  🙂

*Note that this cooking time and the amount of water are specific to red lentils—green lentils require more water and take a little longer.

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