Ever wonder how to really meal prep like a boss? Or ever want to curate your cooking skills? Well, I’m determined to serve up a weekly blog post that shows you exactly how I create awesome meals without over complicating. Keeping things simple is my mantra and I want to give you the tips and techniques to create plant-based dishes that you’ll love but without worrying about the nitty-gritty details. This is going to be perfect if you want to eat more plants, but you’re not sure how to incorporate them or need some time saving inspiration.
I’m a firm believer in the beauty of simplicity and I’m here to make your life a bit less complicated (it’s complicated enough). These posts are designed to be a guide, so feel free to add your own flair! If you don’t have an ingredient, skip or substitute. (I’ll post some common substitutions soon!) Delicious food starts with wholesome ingredients that speak for themselves.
For this first go around, we’re looking at one of my favorite kinds of beans….lentils! More specifically, red lentils or traditional brown lentils. Lentils cook significantly faster than other beans and don’t need to be pre-soaked. Red lentils are fun and colorful, but can be trickier to find depending on where you live (for example ALL beans are hard to find when I’m at home in MN). So know that brown lentils work too. Brown lentils just have a firmer texture than the red guys. French black lentils are also in the lentil family but the firmest yet and take double the cooking time, so I typically avoid (ain’t no body got time for that). They aren’t as readily available so if you’re not used to buying lentils, no worries, there’s a good chance you won’t pick them up by mistake. 😉
Ok, so let’s get to the good stuff! Oh, and I should mention, if all goes according to plan, the posts will be accompanied by a Facebook video on Friday (the day after the blog post) that shows you one of the non-recipe recipes from the week in action!
Red Lentil Dal
Creamy and dreamy wholesome curry whips together before you know it. You can absolutely get fancy with curries, but sometimes it’s nice to keep it simple and quick. Here’s how. Add a dab of oil to a sauté pan with half an onion (chopped) and one to three minced garlic cloves depending on how much you love garlic. If you have fresh or dried ginger or crushed red pepper flakes you can add it here, but it’s not necessary. Sauté for a few minutes before adding at least four tablespoons of garam masala (a pre-mixed curry powder – or use a curry powder/paste!). Mix in a can of coconut milk. This will create a thick curry. If you like thinner varieties, add about 1 cup of water or vegetable broth. Stir in ¾ cup dried red lentils and dash of soy sauce and maple syrup. Simmer over medium low heat about 20 minutes until tender. Once lentils are cooked, taste for adjustments. Add lemon juice if it needs a “zing” factor, crushed red pepper for heat, garam masala/curry powder for more curry flavor, salt for saltiness, or more maple syrup if you like it sweeter. Also feel free to stir in chopped spinach or kale the last few minutes. Serve with rice. BAM!
Lentil Eggplant Lasagna
I first made this during yoga teacher training when I needed a higher protein main meal and something that was easy to reheat quickly. I’ve since made it several other times and while sometimes I add more pizazz like fresh basil, it works just fine with this simplified version. Start with pre-heating your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and cut two large eggplants into ¼ inch slices lengthwise (like lasagna noodles) and lay out on plates/cookie sheets/whatever you’ve got. Salt one side of the eggplant and let sit for 5-15 minutes. Rinse the salted eggplant under water and pat dry with a clean towel. Arrange eggplant on a cookie sheet. It won’t fit on one. I usually just layer the eggplant on top of each other because I hate the thought of doing more dishes (but you could use two cookie sheets). Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and bake 15 minutes. Once done baking, reduce oven heat to 375 degrees Farenheit. While the eggplant is cooking/draining, stir 28 ounce jar of marinara, ½ cup water, and ¾ cup dried red lentils together in a sauce pan. Cover and cook on medium low. Medium low prevents a splatter mess. The red lentils should cook in 15-20 minutes (other varieties take more time and will require more liquid). While the lentils and eggplant are cooking, mash a 12 ounce block of extra firm tofu (press the excess water out with a clean dish cloth first) with the juice of one to two lemons (two makes it zing-ier) and at least 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. This is where you would stir in other seasonings if it’s calling you, like basil, salt, pepper, oregano, more lemon juice or nutritional yeast. You can also use a food processor/blender to create a creamier “cheese” filling. Once everything is cooked, it’s time for the assembly! The bottom layer is the lentil marinara followed by eggplant followed by tofu “ricotta” followed by the rest of the eggplant and then the lentil marinara on top. Cover and bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Then uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes (the hardest part!) before slicing and serving!
This is one of my favorite ways to incorporate beans into a traditional favorite! Hearty and full of flavor. Hint: this is basically the sauce for the eggplant lasagna (without the onions, garlic, and carrots)… so meal prep secret…make a double batch and serve both in a week or freeze for a couple months! Sauté chopped onion, garlic, and a couple finely chopped carrots in a dab of oil. Stir in 26oz or larger sized favorite marinara type sauce and ¾ cup dried red lentils (brown lentils work here too). If you’re using a 24 or 26oz jar of sauce, add ½ cup water. If it’s a family sized jar of sauce, you’re likely fine without more water but feel free to sprinkle some in if the mixture gets too thick for your liking. Cook about 20 minutes until lentils tender and serve over your favorite grain or veggie noodle. I personally love it with roasted spaghetti squash blended with whole wheat pasta. If you feel like spicing it up, stir in Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, or crushed red pepper flakes while cooking.
Recipes shouldn’t back us into a corner; they should give us framework and intention to move towards nourished eating. You are your greatest investment and your time is incredibly valuable. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your world and I hope you find inspiration.
Simplify to curate an abundant life.
With hugs and gratitude,